Gramercy Park

From NYCwiki
Revision as of 00:58, 11 July 2010 by Blurpeace (Talk | contribs)

(diff) ← Older revision | Latest revision (diff) | Newer revision → (diff)
Jump to: navigation, search
The view from the south gate of Gramercy Park, looking north from Gramercy Park South (East 20th Street), with the statue of Edwin Booth in the center. (May 2007)
File:1-4 Gramercy Park townhouses.jpg
Some of the original townhouses surrounding the park, these at #1 through #4 Gramercy Park were built between 1844 and 1850
Gramercy Park Historic District
U.S. National Register of Historic Places
U.S. Historic District
Location: Roughly bounded by 3rd Ave.,Park Ave. South, E. 18th and 22nd Sts., New York, New York
Coordinates: 40°44′16″N 73°59′10″W / 40.73778°N 73.98611°W / 40.73778; -73.98611Coordinates: 40°44′16″N 73°59′10″W / 40.73778°N 73.98611°W / 40.73778; -73.98611
Architectural style(s): Greek Revival, Italianate, Gothic Revival
Governing body: Private
Added to NRHP: January 23, 1980[1]
NRHP Reference#: 80002691

Gramercy Park, sometimes misspelled as Grammercy, is a small, fenced-in private park[2] in the borough of Manhattan in New York City, United States.[3] The park is at the core of both the neighborhood referred to as either Gramercy or Gramercy Park[4][5] and the Gramercy Park Historic District.[6] The approximately 2 acre (0.8 hectare) park is one of only two private parks in New York City; only people residing around the park who pay an annual fee have a key,[7] and the public is not generally allowed in – although the sidewalks of the streets around the park are a popular jogging, strolling and dog-walking route.

When the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission created the Gramercy Park Historic District in 1966, they quoted from John B. Pine's 1921 book, The Story of Gramercy Park:

The laying out of Gramercy Park represents one of the earliest attempts in this country at 'City Planning'. ... As a park given to the prospective owners of the land surrounding it and held in trust for those who made their homes around it, Gramercy Park is unique in this City, and perhaps in this country, and represents the only neighborhood, with possibly one exception, which has remained comparatively unchanged for eighty years -- the Park is one of the City's Landmarks.[6]

Calling it "a Victorian gentleman who has refused to die", Charlotte Devree in the New York Times said that "There is nothing else quite like Gramercy Park in the country."[8]

The neighborhood around Gramercy Park, which is divided between New York City's Manhattan Community Board 5[9] and Manhattan Community Board 6,[10] is generally perceived to be a quiet and safe area.[7]



Gramercy Park itself is located between East 20th Street, called Gramercy Park South at the park, and East 21st Street (Gramercy Park North) and between Gramercy Park West and Gramercy Park East, two mid-block streets which are between Park Avenue South and Third Avenue. Irving Place terminates at the southern end of Gramercy Park, and Lexington Avenue, a major north-south thoroughfare on the East Side of Manhattan, commences at the northern.

The neighborhood's boundaries are roughly 14th Street to the south, First Avenue to the east, 23rd Street to the north, and Park Avenue South to the west.[7] To the west of Gramercy Park is the Flatiron District and Union Square, to the south Greenwich Village and the East Village, to the east are Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village, and to the north are Rose Hill on the northwest and Kips Bay on the northeast.[11]

The boundaries of the Historic District, set in 1966[6] and extended in 1988,[12] are irregular, lying within the neighborhood, and can be seen in the map in the infobox on the right. A proposed extension to the district would include more than 40 additional buildings on Gramercy Park East and North, Lexington Avenue, Park Avenue South, East 22nd and East 19th Streets, and Irving Place.[13]


"Gramercy" is an Anglicization of "Crommessie", which is derived from the Dutch Krom Moerasje, meaning "little crooked swamp",[14] or Krom Mesja, meaning "little crooked knife",[15] describing the shape of the swamp, brook and hill on the site. The brook, which later become known as Crommessie Vly,[16] flowed in a 40-foot gully along what is now 21st Street into the East River at 18th Street. "Krom Moerasje"/"Krom Mesje" became corrupted to "Crommessie", which itself was further corrupted to "Gramercy."[16][17][15]


The area which is now Gramercy Park was once in the middle of a swamp. In 1831 Samuel B. Ruggles, a developer and advocate of open space, proposed the idea for the park due to the northward growth of Manhattan. He bought the property, which was then a farm called "Gramercy Farm", from James Duane, a descendant of Peter Stuyvesant.[18] To develop the property, Ruggles spent $180,000 to landscape it, draining the swamp and causing about a million horsecart loads of earth to be moved.[16][14] He then laid out "Gramercy Square", deeding possession of the square to the owners of the 60 parcels of land he had plotted to surround it, and sought tax-exempt status for the park, which the Board of Alderman granted in 1832. It was the second private square created in the city, after Hudson Square, also known as St. John's Park, which was laid out by the parish of Trinity Church.[6] Numbering of the lots began at #1 on the northwest corner, on Gramercy Park West, and continued counter-clockwise: south down Gramercy Park West, then west to east along Gramercy Park South (East 20th Street), north up Gramercy Park East, and finally east to west along Gramercy Park North (East 21st Street).[6]

Gramercy Park was enclosed by a fence in 1833, but construction on the surrounding lots did not begin until the 1840s.[19][16] The first planting in the park was made in 1844.[6] Ruggles also brought about the creation by the state legislature of Lexington Avenue and Irving Place,[20] two new north-south roads laid out between Third and Fourth Avenues and feeding into his development at the top and bottom of the park.[16]

File:Players Club.jpg
Exterior of the Players' Club, founded in 1888 by Edwin Booth, at #16 Gramercy Park

In 1863, in an unprecedented gesture, Gramercy Park was opened to Union soldiers involved in putting down the violent Draft Riots which broke out in New York, after conscription was introduced for the Civil War.[14] Some of the soldiers encampled in nearby Stuyvesant Square.[16]

At #34 and #36 Gramercy Park (East) are two of New York's first apartment buildings, designed in 1883 and 1905.[21] Elsewhere in the neighborhood, nineteenth century brownstones and carriage houses abound, though the 1920s brought the onset of tenant apartments and skyscrapers to the area.

In the center of the park is a statue of one of the area's most famous residents, Edwin Booth, which was dedicated on November 13, 1918.[22][23][24] Booth was one of the great Shakespearean actors of 19th Century America, as well as the brother of John Wilkes Booth, the assassin of Abraham Lincoln. The mansion at #16 Gramercy Park (South) was purchased by Booth and renovated by Stanford White at his request to be the home of the Players' Club, which Booth founded. He turned over the deed to the building on New Year's Eve 1888.[23][21] Next door at #15 Gramercy Park (South) is the National Arts Club, established in 1884 in a Victorian Gothic mansion which was originally home to the New York Governor and 1876 Presidential Candidate, Samuel J. Tilden. Tilden had steel doors and an escape tunnel to East 19th Street to protect himself from the sometimes violent politics of the day.[21]

In 1890 and 1912, attempts were made to run a cable car through the park to connect Irving Place to Lexington Avenue.[6]

In the late 19th century, numerous charitable institutions influential in setting social policy were located on 23rd Street, and some, such as the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies, still remain in the area. Calvary Church on Gramercy Park North has a food pantry that opens its doors once a week for one hour, and the Brotherhood Synagogue on Gramercy Park South served as an Underground Railroad station before the Civil War, when the building was a Quaker meeting house, established in 1859.[21]

On September 20, 1966, a part of the Gramercy Park neighborhood was designated an historic district,[6] the boundaries of which were extended on July 12, 1988.[12] The district was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.[1] A proposed extension of the district would include nearby buildings such as the Manhattan Trade School for Girls, now the School of the Future, and the Children's Court and Family Court buildings, now part of Baruch College, all on East 22nd Street.[13]

In 1983, Fantasy Fountain, a 4.5 ton bronze sculpture by Greg Wyatt was installed in the park.

One of the most significant steam explosions in New York City occurred near Gramercy Park in 1989, killing two Consolidated Edison workers and one bystander, and causing damage of several million dollars to area buildings.[25]

Ownership of the park

Gramercy Park is held in common as one of the city's two privately owned parks – Sunnyside Gardens in Queens is the other – by the owners of the surrounding structures, as it has been since December 31, 1831.[26][27] Residents living in buildings that face the park may buy a key to the park, which is changed annually. In addition, members of the Players Club and the National Arts Club as well as guests of the Gramercy Park Hotel[28] have key access, as does Calvary Church.

The park was at one time opened to the public on Gramercy Day – which changed yearly, but was often the first Saturday in May. In 2007, the Trustees of Gramercy Park announced that it would no longer open the park on that day, though caroling in the park on Christmas Eve is expected to continue, but no longer connected to Calvary Church.[29]

In 2001 a lawsuit against the park's administration was filed in the Federal Court. The suit involved minority schoolchildren who had allegedly been asked to leave the park.[30][31] The suit was settled out of court in 2003.[32]

The neighborhood

Whether the neigborhood is called "Gramercy Park" or "Gramercy", it is generally considered to be a quiet and safe area.[7] While real estate in Manhattan is rarely stable, the apartments in the neighborhood around Gramercy Park have experienced little turmoil. East 19th Street between Third Avenue and Irving is labeled "Block Beautiful" for its wide array of architecture and pristine aesthetic. Townhouses with generous backyards and smaller apartments alike coincide in a collage of architecture in Gramercy Park. The largest private house in the neighborhood, a 42-room mansion on Gramercy Park South, sold for $7 million in 1993.

The quiet streets perpendicular to Irving Place have maintained their status as fashionable residential blocks reminiscent of London's West End. In 1912, a multiple dwelling planned specifically for bachelors appeared at 52 Irving Place. This handsome Colonial Revival style structure with suites of rooms that lacked kitchen facilities was one of a small group of New York apartment houses planned for single men in the early years of the 20th century.

File:WTM tony 0038 crop.jpg
Gramercy Park Hotel

Gramercy Park Hotel

The Gramercy Park Hotel was originally designed by Robert T. Lions and built by brothers Bing and Bing in 1925. In 2006, the hotel underwent a massive makeover by hotelier Ian Schrager in association with the artist Julian Schnabel. The hotel has views of Gramercy Park, and guests receive keys to access the park during their stay. Humphrey Bogart married Helen Menken at the hotel in 1926.[33]

Irving Place

An assortment of restaurants, bars, and establishments line Irving Place, the main thoroughfare of the neighborhood south of the park. Pete's Tavern, New York's oldest surviving saloon and where O. Henry wrote The Gift of the Magi, survived Prohibition disguised as a flower shop. Irving Plaza, on East 15th Street and Irving, hosts numerous concerts for both well-known and indie bands and draws a crowd almost every night. There are also a number of clinics and official city buildings on Irving Place

Education and parks

Two public high schools are located in the area: Washington Irving High School on Irving Place, and the School of the Future on 22nd Street at Lexington Avenue, which is also a middle school.

P.S. 40, the Augustus Saint-Gaudens School,[34] is the only general public elementary school in the neighborhood, located on East 20th Street between First and Second Avenues, near the Augustus Saint-Gaudens Playground, Peter's Field, and the park at Stuyvesant Square. The building also houses a middle school, the Salk School of Science, named after Jonas Salk. Down the street is M.S. 104 the Simon Baruch Middle School.[35] Nearby, on East 23rd Street is the School for the Deaf, a public elementary and middle school,[36] the building for which also hosts other public school programs.

Also located in the neighborhood is The Epiphany School, a Catholic secondary school on 22nd Street at Second Avenue. Founded in 1885 for religious instruction in the parish of the Epiphany, the school has been a landmark – gutted and rebuilt – in the neighborhood for generations.[37] At 20th Street and Second Avenue is a new building for the Learning Spring School, a private school for high-functioning autistic children[38] funded by the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative.[39] The building houses an elementary and middle school, grades K-8.[40]

The buildings of Baruch College of the City University of New York (CUNY) are located in the neighborhood or nearby, as are the facilities of The School of Visual Arts, on East 23rd Street and elsewhere. The Gramercy Park Women's Residence, George Washington Dormitory and the New Residence house students from the school.

The neighborhood is served by the Epiphany branch of the New York Public Library on East 23rd Street.


Although the neighborhood is not far from "hospital row" on First Avenue above 23rd Street, the primary medical center in its boundaries is Beth Israel Medical Center between East 15th and 17th Streets off of First Avenue. Nearby is the Hospital for Joint Diseases, part of the NYU Medical Center, and the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary on 14th Street. Cabrini Medical Center, on East 19th and 20th Streets, closed down in 2008, but the buildings were purchased by Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in 2010, for use as a cancer outpatient facility.[41]

Notable residents

Notable past residents of the buildings immediately surrounding the park include:

The neighborhood was once home to President Theodore Roosevelt – whose birthplace on 20th Street is a National Historic Site. Oscar Wilde lived on East 17th and Irving Place for a while, next to his interior designer Elsie de Wolfe and her partner, literary agent Elisabeth Marbury, said to be the most fashionable lesbian couple of Victorian New York.

The actor James Cagney once lived in one of the buildings on Gramercy Park South (East 20th Street), as did Margaret Hamilton. Amanda Peet grew up in the neighborhood. Many actors, actresses and artists live in the district including Jimmy Fallon, Kate Hudson, Rufus Wainwright, Whitney Port, Joshua Bell, and Amanda Lepore. Julie Roberts owns a penthouse in the Gramercy Park Hotel. Winona Ryder use to live in Gramery Park, but moved out in 1988.

The fashion designer Narciso Rodriguez has his studio on Irving Place and the neighborhood is home to numerous models' apartments from nearby agencies on Broadway. NBC News anchor Ann Curry also lives in the neighborhood.

In popular culture

  • 1892: John Seymour Wood's Gramercy Park: A Story of New York may be one of the first literary works set in the area
  • 1945: In E. B. White's children's book Stuart Little, the Little family live at "22 Gramercy Park",[43] which White describes as "[A] pleasant place near a park in New York City." White also wrote a poem called "Gramercy Park", which was published in The New Yorker, about he and a friend climbing over the fence into the park.[44]
  • 1949: Henry David McCracken's The Family on Gramercy Park is set in the neighborhood.
  • 1961: Medusa in Gramercy Park is a book of poems by Horace Gregory
  • 1965: The address in the title of Priscilla Dalton's 90 Gramercy Park does not actually exist.
  • 1970: A character in Jack Finney's, Time and Again lives in the neighborhood around Gramercy Park.
  • 1982: In The Brownstone House of Nero Wolfe by Ken Darby, the character Archie Goodwin states that Nero Wolfe's townhouse was actually on East 22nd Street in the Gramercy Park district rather than the fictional West 35th street address(es) given in the novels to protect Wolfe's privacy.[45]
  • 1983: Bruce Nicolaysen's The Pirate of Gramercy Park is part of the Novel of New York multi-generation family historical fiction series.
  • 1988: In the book Changes for Samantha, part of the American Girl series, Samantha stays at her Uncle Gardner and Aunt Crodelia's brownstone house in Gramercy Park.
  • 2001: The mystery novel Muder on Gramercy Park by Victoria Thompson is part of the Gaslight Mystery series
  • 2003: Paula Cohen's historical novel Gramercy Park is set in 1894.
  • 2005: The Monsters of Gramercy Park by Danny Leigh is a psychological thriller.
  • 2006: Several key scenes of Jed Rubenfeld's historical thriller The Interpretation of Murder, which is set in New York in 1909, take place in the park itself and the houses nearby, where one of the book's main protagonists lives.
  • 2007: The Luxe, a book by Anna Godbersen, takes place in the neighborhood around Gramercy Park.
  • Note: Because Gramercy Park is private, film companies are not usually allowed to shoot there.
  • 1973: In the science fiction film Soylent Green, which is set in New York in 2022, a corrupt New York governor escorts some children into a tent saying, "This was once called, 'Gramercy Park,' boys. Now it's the only tree sanctuary in New York."
  • 1979: In the film The Warriors, one of the fictional gangs featured is the Gramercy Riffs.
  • 1993: The exterior of the park can be seen in the Woody Allen film Manhattan Murder Mystery. The characters in the film comment on the beauty of the park from a wine tasting filmed in the National Arts Club. Later in the film Diane Keaton and Alan Alda walk into the street directly in front of the park as they try to track a bus route.
  • 1999: In the film Notting Hill, a famous actress, played by Julia Roberts, is shown starring in a film called Gramercy Park, which was also the name of the production company for Notting Hill.


See also


File:Gramercy Park 1853 real estate map.jpg
An 1853 real estate map of the area around Gramercy Park
  1. 1.0 1.1 "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2008-04-15. 
  2. Kugel, Seth "Weekend in New York: Gramercy Park; The Ultimate Neighborhood Park" New York Times, July 23, 2006. Accessed July 7, 2006 "A visit to the Gramercy Park neighborhood, on the East Side of Manhattan, can be frustrating...But the easily walkable neighborhood deserves a tour..."
  3. Bonanos, Christopher, ed. "Gotham Real Estate: No Walk in the Park" New York (May 21, 2005). Retrieved July 3rd 2007]
  4. "Neighborhood Profile: Gramercy Park" New York March 10, 2003. Accessed July 7, 2009.
  5. "Suspect sought in attempted sex assault" WABC-TV Eyewitness News, February 19, 2009. Accessed July 7, 2009 "Eyewitness news reporter Jim Dolan is in Gramercy Park tonight with the very latest...Reporting live from Gramercy Park, Jim Dolan, Eyewitness News."
  6. 6.00 6.01 6.02 6.03 6.04 6.05 6.06 6.07 6.08 6.09 6.10 6.11 "Gramercy Park Historic District" at the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission "Unlike any other district in New York, Gramercy Park, which was planned as a fashionable residential neighborhood, has always remained a fashionable residential neighborhood."
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 Cohen, Joyce. "If You're Thinking of Living In/Gramercy Park; A Long Sense of History, And a Private Park", The New York Times, August 29, 1999. Accessed July 30, 2007. "Most distinctive of all is that Gramercy Park itself is the only private park in the city. Landscaped and leafy, the park defines the neighborhood, which runs from 14th to 23d streets and Park Avenue South to Third Avenue. The gates are locked for all but one afternoon a year, usually the first Saturday in May, when the park is open to the public."
  8. Devree, Charlotte. "Private Life of a Park" New York Times (December 8, 1957), quoted in "Gramercy Park Historic District" at the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission
  9. Community Board 5
  10. Community Board 6
  11. Neighborhoods in New York City do not have official status, and their boundaries are not specifically set by the city. (There are a number of Community Boards, whose boundaries are officially set, but these are fairly large and generally contain a number of neighborhoods, and the neighborhood map issued by the Department of City Planning only shows the largest ones.) Because of this, the definition of where neighborhoods begin and end is subject to a variety of forces, including the efforts of real estate concerns to promote certain areas, the use of neighborhood names in media news reports, and the everyday usage of people.
  12. 12.0 12.1 "Gramercy Park Historic Distric and Extension" map at
  13. 13.0 13.1 "Proposed Gramercy Park Historic District Extension" on the Gramercy Neighborhood Associates website
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 Jackson, Kenneth T. (ed.) The Encyclopedia of New York City. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1991.
  15. 15.0 15.1 Moscow, Henry. The Street Book. New York: The Hagstrom Company, 1979, s.v. "Gramercy Park": "Crommessie, the Dutch for 'crooked little knife', which described the shape of a brook and hill on the site. Judith Stuyvesant, widow of Governor Peter Stuyvesant referred to "Cromessie" in a deed she signed in 1674."
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 16.3 16.4 16.5 Burrows, Edwin G. & Wallace, Mike. Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999. page 577
  17. Ramos, Sandra. Gramercy Park profile, New York. Accessed September 30, 2007.
  18. Kugel, Seth. "The Ultimate Neighborhood Park", The New York Times, July 23, 2006. Accessed July 30, 2007.
  19. "Gramercy Park", New York Times, (July 3, 1921), editorial on the 90th anniversary of the dedication of Gramercy Park.
  20. Ruggles named Irving Place after Washington Irving, but Irving never lived there, although he frequently visited a nephew who lived nearby.
  21. 21.0 21.1 21.2 21.3 21.4 Wurman, Richard Saul. Access: New York City. New York: Access Press (HarperCollins), 2000.
  22. "Booth Statue Unveiled" New York Times" (November 14, 1918)
  23. 23.0 23.1 "Booth Statue in Gramercy Park" New York Times (November 17, 1918)
  24. "New York Honors Edwin Booth" Theatre Magazine (v.29 n.1, 1919)
  25. Pitt, David E. "2 Dead and 19 Hurt in Blast Of a Submerged Steam Pipe", New York Times (August 20, 1989). Accessed September 30, 2007. "A 24-inch underground steam pipe exploded with a thunderous roar in the Gramercy Park section of Manhattan yesterday evening, killing two people and injuring 19 others, the police said."
  26. "Sunnyside" on Forgotten NY
  27. Vitullo-Martin, Julia. "A Pioneering Queens Garden Community Flourishes Anew" New York Sun (July 7, 2005)
  28. Gramercy Park Hotel Features List Retrieved on July 3rd, 2007
  29. "Gramercy Park no longer open first Saturday in May" on NewYorkOlogy (May 2, 2007).
  30. Kleinfeld, N. R. "Federal Lawsuit Charges Racial Exclusion at Gated Gramercy Park", New York Times (January 18, 2001)
  31. Rish, George and Molloy, Joanna with Anderson, Kasia and Rubin, Lauren. "Madonna 'Grabs' London Spotlight" New York Daily News (May 15, 2002)
  32. Fried, Joseph. "Following Up" New York Times (September 28, 2003)
  33. Bernard, Sarah. "Heartbreak Hotel", New York, July 8, 2002. Accessed July 30, 2007. "After a few minutes in the penthouse party space where Humphrey Bogart married Helen Menken, Marilyn said good-bye and took the elevator eighteen floors down to the lobby."
  34. "P.S. 040 Augustus Saint-Gaudens" official website
  35. "Baruch Midle School" official website
  36. "'47' American Sign Language and English Lower School" official website
  37. Epiphany School official website
  38. LearningSpring School website
  39. SFARI website
  40. "Full Board Meeting Minutes" of Manhattan Community Board 6 (February 11, 2009)
  41. "Cabrini to become cancer outpatient center" Town & Village (February 18, 2010)
  42. 42.0 42.1 42.2 42.3 See the plaque on the building at File:36 Gramercy Park plaque.jpg
  43. "Meet Mister Little" Daytona Beach Morning Journal (March 6, 1966)
  44. Elledge, Scott. E. B. White: A Biography. New York: W. W. Norton, 1986. ISBN 0-393-30305-5
  45. Darby, Ken, The Brownstone House of Nero Wolfe, p. 8
  46. 46.0 46.1 46.2 46.3 46.4 46.5 46.6 46.7 White, Norval and Willensky, Elliot. AIA Guide to New York City. Fourth edition. New York: Three Rivers Press, 2000. ISBN 0-8129-3107-6
  47. 1975 historic plaque on site, placed by New York Community Trust
Further reading
  • "Gramercy Park", New York Times (July 3, 1921) Editorial on Gramercy Park's 90th anniversary and some history.
  • "Samuel B. Ruggles, Founder Of Gramercy Park", Antiques Digest, reprinted. Originally published 1921.
  • Brooks, Gladys. Gramercy Park: Memories of a New York Girlhood New York: Dutton, 1958.
  • Garmey, Stephen. Gramercy Park: An Illustrated History of a New York Neighborhood. 1984. ISBN 0-917439-00-7.
  • Klein, Carole. Gramercy Park: An American Bloomsbury New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1987.
  • Pine, John B. The Story of Gramercy Park (1921)

External links


ca:Gramercy Park

es:Gramercy Park (Manhattan) fr:Gramercy fr:Gramercy Park he:פארק גראמרסי sk:Gramercy sk:Gramercy Park sv:Gramercy, Manhattan

Personal tools

Flagship Projects