National Academy of Design


The National Academy of Design was founded in New York City in 1825, by students of the American Academy of the Fine Arts, as The New York Drawing Association. Samuel F.B. Morse, the inventor of the telegraph, was the first president. In 1828, it became The National Academy of Design.

The academy occupied several locations in Manhattan over the years. By 1854, the Academy had sold its old premises for the purpose of erecting a new Music Hall upon the site (New York Times, March 23, 1854). In 1859, the 34th exhibition was held in "the shabby, ill-conditioned , inconvenient rooms of the National Academy in Tenth Street", according to the New York Times (April 20, 1859). In 1862, the 37th annual exhibition was held in the Institute of Fine Arts, at the Dusseldorf Gallery, 625 Broadway. In 1864, the 39th exhibition was held at the Derby Gallery, also in the Institute of Fine Arts, which opened in 1860.

The National Academy of Design building, on the northwest corner of East 23rd Street and Fourth Avenue (now Park Avenue South), was a landmark. It was designed in a Venetian Gothic style by architect Peter Bonnett Wight (1838–1925). The cornerstone was laid on June 27, 1863 and it opened on April 27, 1865. Enlargement of the main façade on East 23rd Street, below.

Despite its small size, the interior had large blank spaces for the galleries within and enough wall space for pictures. It lacked, however, adequate space for sculptures and had no arrangements for the overflowing of a dense crowd. The interior was finished with white pine, ash, mahogany, oak and black walnut in their natural colors. No paint was used in the building. Schools of art, library, reading room, lecture room and other rooms for the business of the Academy occupied the first and second floors. The third floor was devoted to the gallery of paintings and the sculpture room.

The Academy sold its property to the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company to build an extension of its own building on Madison Square. The insurance company made an offer for the property in 1894, but it was not until June 1899 that the purchase was completed.

Demolition of this art center began by August, 1901. Before the demolition, the Academy became a tenant of the Society of American Artists on the Fine Arts Building, at 215 West Fifty-seventh Street, where it held its traditional Annual Exhibition in January, 1901.

About the same year, the Academy established its new quarters at West 109th Street and Amsterdam Avenue, where Columbia's School of Architecture had conducted a life drawing course, from 1914 to 1919.

From January 1942 to 2019, the academy occupied a Beaux-Arts mansion at 1083 Fifth Avenue, corner of East 89th Street, former home of sculptor Anna Hyatt Huntington and railroad heir and philanthropist Archer M. Huntington, who donated the house in 1940. Then, the Academy had about 2,000 items in its permanent collection.

In 2016, the Academy decided to sell its property on 5th Avenue at 89th Street. It operated both a museum and a school, but the museum would be closed in June that year, according to the New York Times (March 17, 2016).

Today, the National Academy of Design is located at 15 Gramercy Park South.


National Academy of Design




Park Avenue South


National Academy of Design

Northwest corner of East 23rd Street. About 1895.


The National Academy of Design building, northwest corner of 4th Avenue and 23rd Street. Before 1885, when the Lyceum Theatre building was erected (not in the photo). Photo, originally stereoscopic view, published by E. & H.T. Anthony & Co. Source: New York Public Library.


Beaux-Arts buildings


Antique photos of NYC


Beaux-Arts buildings on 5th Avenue and East 89th Street. The Archer M. Huntington mansion was donated to the National Academy of Design, in 1940. Photograph published by Welles & Co. NY, 1911, part of the series 5th Avenue New York from Start to Finish.


National Academy Design


National Academy of Design


Antique photographs


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