Eleanor Roosevelt Residence

29 Washington Square W New York

LGBT Washington Square Park & Environs/Eleanor Roosevelt Residence
NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project
Written By NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project

The first initiative to document historic and cultural sites associated with the LGBT community in New York City, illustrating the richness of the city's history and the community's influence on America.

Overview

Between 1942 and 1949, this 16-story apartment building on MacDougal Street and Waverly Place was the New York City residence of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. During this time period, she was appointed the first United States Delegate to the United Nations where she helped lead the effort to draft the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

History

In March 1942, President Franklin D. and Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962) signed a four-year lease for the seven-room apartment 15-A in this building, which overlooks Washington Square Park. Initially leased as a pied-à-terre, the Roosevelts planned to use the apartment on a permanent basis as their New York City residence when World War II had ended (its street-level lobby entrance would facilitate easy access for the president’s wheelchair). Coinciding with the lease of this space, the Roosevelts sold their conjoined townhouses at 47 and 49 East 65th Street. By mid-April, Mrs. Roosevelt oversaw the move into the space.

Eleanor Roosevelt, who had many lesbian friends and relationships, initially established residency in Greenwich Village after her husband was elected president in 1933. This was the same year she began a long-term lesbian relationship with journalist Lorena Hickok. Before moving to Washington Square in 1942, she leased an apartment as a pied-à-terre at 20 East 11th Street, which was owned by her friends and advisors Esther Lape and Elizabeth Read. Nearby 171 West 12th Street was also the residence of other lesbian friends who were active in progressive politics. Roosevelt was the longest-serving first lady, having presided in the White House between 1933 and 1945. She took an active role in politics and refused to accept the traditional role assigned to previous first ladies. After her husband’s death in 1945, this address became her permanent residence. It was that year when President Truman appointed Roosevelt as the first United States Delegate to the United Nations where she helped lead the effort to draft the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which passed in 1948.

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After moving from this location, Roosevelt remained in New York City. Although not a resident of Greenwich Village, in 1958 she opposed plans by Robert Moses to redesign Washington Square Park by opening it to traffic.

Building Information

Architect or Builder: Gronenberg & Leuchtag Year Built: 1926-27

Sources

“1908 Roosevelt Houses,” Daytonian in Manhattan blog, April 6, 2011, bit.ly/2dXJHR2. Blanche Weisen Cook, Eleanor Roosevelt, 2 vols. (New York: Viking, 1992). Lillian Faderman, To Believe in Women (‪Boston-New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1999). “Roosevelts Rent Apartment Here,” The New York Times, March 28, 1942. “Questions and Answers About Eleanor Roosevelt,” The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project, The George Washington University, n.d., bit.ly/2dQlZFW.

Cover Photo

Amanda Davis/NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, 2016.

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