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.

Header Photo

Credit: Amanda Davis/NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, 2016.

On the Map

 
Photo Above

Plaque on the Washington Square West facade, 2016. Photo by the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project.

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.

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.

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