Looking at the LES’s Presidential Connections

George and Martha Washington’s mansion at 3 Cherry Street. Source: New York Historical Society.

Editor’s note: Today we’re kicking off a new LES history series with Eric Ferrara, the founder of the Lower East Side History Project.  In honor of President’s Day, Eric looks at the enduring allure of this neighborhood to occupants of the White House from the nation’s earliest days. 

From the ambitious political architects of our fledgling nation to the most powerful heads-of-state of the 21st century, the Lower East Side has hosted some pretty interesting presidential history.

Former Continental Army Commander George Washington was inaugurated as the first President of the United States during a ceremony at Federal Hall in Lower Manhattan on April 30, 1789. After what I’m sure was a night on the town that would make Sean Combs envious, the nation’s earliest Commander-in-Chief retired to his residence at 3 Cherry Street on the Lower East Side.

The elegant, yet publicly accessible mansion was leased by Congress for $845 a year and served as Washington’s home base for the first ten months of his presidential term. With a home office on third floor, Washington soon found it difficult to work with the entire city knocking on his door, so bi-weekly “levees”—or greeting sessions – were established to satisfy public interest.