The Illustrious Residents of Gramercy Park

The neighborhood of Gramercy is defined by a most unique feature: a private park. But it has attracted such an impressive number of notable personalities that the list of Gramercy Park residents may very well rival its “private park” reputation.

#3&4 – James Harper (resident from 1847 to 1869)

James Harper was the mayor of New York from 1844 to 1845 as well as one of the founders of the Harper publishing firm—now known as HarperCollins (one of the Big Five English-language publishing companies). The two iron lamps outside #4 were placed in front of the house by the city in Harper’s honor. According to the old New York custom dating back to the Dutch times, the mayor’s residence had to be marked with a lit lamp so that his house would be easy to find at all times.

https://portablenycblog.com/2021/06/04/a-dutch-tradition-in-gramercy/

No. 15 – Samuel Tilden (resident from 1863 to 1886)

Samuel Tilden, the 25th governor of New York state, was also the Democratic presidential candidate in the 1876 US presidential election, losing out to Rutherford B. Hayes. Tilden is best remembered as the only presidential candidate to win over 50% of the popular vote yet still lose the election. The house was built in 1845, remodeled in 1874, and now houses the National Arts Club.

No. 16 – Edwin Booth (resident from 1888 to 1893)

Edwin Booth was one of the most famous American actors in the 19th century. He also happened to be the older brother of John Wilkes Booth, Abraham Lincoln’s assassin. Edwin purchased the house in 1888 and commissioned Stanford White (a renown architect and fellow Gramercy Park resident) to remodel it. He then turned it into the Players Club, a private social club founded to promote communication among artists and patrons of the arts.

https://portablenycblog.com/2019/01/08/edwin-booth-the-hamlet-of-new-york/

No. 19 – Stuyvesant and Mamie Fish (resident from 1887 to 1899)

Stuyvesant Fish, a member of the affluent Fish family, was an American businessman and a socialite. His wife “Mamie” was a prominent hostess and leader of Gilded Age high society.

https://portablenycblog.com/2020/05/04/stuyvesant-fish-house-19-gramercy-park-south/

https://portablenycblog.com/2020/05/09/mamie-fish-the-fun-maker-of-the-gilded-age/

No. 24 – Thomas Alva Edison (resident for a few years from 1881.) Demolished 1908

Edison, who played a critical role in introducing the modern age of electricity, has been described as America’s greatest inventor. Though Edison and his family didn’t own a brownstone, they rented an apartment in 24 Gramercy Park South for several years. [His laboratory was located in Upper Manhattan and the family lived at their home in Menlo Park, New Jersey, during the summer months.] The original house, demolished in 1908, was later replaced by a modern building.

No. 26 – William Steinway (resident from 1870 to 1896)

William Steinway was a businessman, civic leader, andalong with his father and brothersfounder of Steinway & Sonsthe world’s most celebrated piano manufacturer.

No. 36 – John Barrymore (from 1910 to 1916)

John Barrymore was a star of the stage and the screen in the first half of the 20th century. Famous actor, he was a member of Barrymore theatrical clan. His portrayal of Hamlet earned him a moniker of the “greatest living American tragedian.”

No. 36 – Daniel Chester French 

Daniel Chester French, one of the most important American sculptors of the late-19th and early-20th centuries, was best known for designing the monumental statue of Abraham Lincoln – a focal point of the Washington D.C.’s Lincoln Memorial.

No. 38 – John Steinbeck (resident 1925)

John Steinbeck was an American author and the winner of the 1962 Nobel Prize in Literature. He has been called “a giant of American letters,” with many of his works now considered classics of Western literature. Steinbeck rented a small dingy room in this building while trying to make it as a writer in New York.

No. 50 – Cyrus Field (resident from 1850 to 1892) Demolished 1909, now 1 Lexington Ave

Cyrus Field was an American businessman and financier who, along with other entrepreneurs, created the Atlantic Telegraph Company and laid the first telegraph cable across the Atlantic Ocean in 1858.

No. 55 – George Templeton Strong. Demolished 1928

George Templeton Strong  was a lawyer and a diarist whose writings have become indispensable for present-day historians. His 2,250-page diary, discovered in the 1930s, provides a striking personal account 19th century lifeespecially the turbulent years of the American Civil War.

No. 121 East 21st – Stanford White (resident from 1901 to 1906) Demolished 1924

Stanford White was a prominent American architect and partner in the architectural firm McKim, Mead & White, one of his era’s most significant Beaux-Arts firms. His extravagant mansion did not survive, with its location now occupied by the Gramercy Park Hotel.

No. 9 Lexington Avenue – Peter Cooper (resident from 1850-1883)

Peter Cooper was an industrialist, entrepreneur, inventor, humanitarian, and philanthropist. His legacy includes the Cooper Uniona college committed to making education fair and accessible to all, regardless of race, gender, and financial status.

No. 28 East 20th Street – Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace National Historic Site

Theodore Roosevelt, one of the four U.S. presidents whose faces are carved on Mount Rushmore, was the first president to be born in New York City. He was born and spent his childhood in a house that once stood at 28 East 20th Street.

No. 47, 49 Irving Place – Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde, the 19th-century playwright and towering figure in world literature, roomed at 47 Irving Place in 1882. Some years later his American literary agent Elisabeth Marbury set up a home for him next door at 49 Irving Place.

No. 55 Irving Place – O. Henry (Demolished)

At some point, O. Henry lived at 55 Irving Place, in close proximity to Gramercy Park and right across from Pete’s Tavern, where he spent a lot of time drinking and writing. Rumor has it that “The Gift of the Magi” was written in just a few hours before the deadline in the now well-marked booth in Pete’s Tavern.

https://portablenycblog.com/2018/02/23/o-henry-a-very-short-story/

More recent luminaries include the designer Karl Lagerfeld, actors Julia Roberts and Uma Thurman, and comedian Jimmy Fallon, among others.

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