EXPLORE GRAMERCY PARK

DESCRIPTION

As the only private park in Manhattan, Gramercy Park exudes the city's penultimate air of exclusivity. Only those with an address along the park's parameters have access to one of 383 costly-to-replace keys, and they must adhere to the board's strict guest and photography stipulations. Historic and well-manicured, the park has been home to famed members such as the Roosevelts, the Kennedys, and many famed actors, artists and writers. The landmarked Gramercy Park Hotel on the park's edge has hosted a slew of famed guests as well, and offers both stunning views from the rooftop terrace and keys for access to the private park.

Those neighborhood residents without a key to the locked park can venture over to Stuyvesant Square to enjoy the outdoors, or to the nearby bordering Union Square. Also in the area is Augustus St. Gaudens Playground with a jungle gym and basketball courts.

Dining-wise, the neighborhood holds a few strongholds definitely worth a visit. Pete's Tavern offers Italian and American fare that has well-served the area since 1864. Also in Gramercy are Casa Mono, known for its upscale Catalyn-style cuisine and Rolf's German restaurant, known for its renowned Christmas display, plus Maialino, Molly’s Pub and Gramercy Tavern.

The area also hosts locally owned retail offerings such as Gramercy Project and Bash & Bow, quaint coffee shops such as Irving Farm Coffee Roasters and Piccolo Café, and artisanal specialty food stores such as Gramercy Food Market and Natural Food Market.

Though predominantly characterized by a relaxing and tame vibe, Gramercy Park also has opportunity for fun and excitement. The National Arts Club, located along the park, offers a range of art exhibitions, performances and lectures for members to enjoy. Nonmembers are also admitted to attend select events of this historical society, which dates back to 1898.

Two music venues, the Gramercy Theater and Irving Plaza, host a constant stream of rock and hip-hop artists that liven up the area at night. Also, the off-Broadway nonprofit Vineyard Theater stands on the border of Gramercy and Union Square, programming bold new plays and musicals for the public. For a dose of comedy, The Stand hosts a rotation of comedians every night and doubles as a restaurant with classic New American cuisine.

HISTORY

The historic and gorgeous Gramercy Park is the brainchild of developer and advocate Samuel B. Ruggles, who envisioned the park through the swampland that engulfed the area at the time in 1831. He purchased the land from the family of James Chatham Duane, New York City's 44th mayor. After draining the swamp and landscaping what was first dubbed Gramercy Square, he deeded the property to the sixty-six surrounding landowners. The park's gates were first officially locked in 1844, solidifying its prevailing exclusivity, and it was ultimately awarded landmark status in 1866.

In 1888, actor Edwin Booth established a clubhouse for actors and patrons of the arts called "The Players." Considered the greatest Shakespearean actor of his time (and also the brother of Lincoln's assassin John Wilkes), he selected a Gothic Revival-style mansion overlooking the park to host the private club, which still stands today. A statue of Edwin Booth appropriately dressed as Hamlet stands in the center of the park.

In 1966, the Landmarks Preservation Commission created the Gramercy Park Historic District to commemorate the area as one of the city's most unique treasures and one of its earliest reigning examples of city planning.

LANDSCAPE

The park undoubtedly serves as the neighborhood's focal point, but the boundaries of Gramercy extend beyond its two acres to include the area bordered by East 23rd Street to the north, First Avenue to the east, East 14th Street to the south, and Park Avenue South and Irving Place to the west. Despite its central Manhattan location, the neighborhood exudes a small village-like atmosphere with its many beautiful brownstones and tree-lined streets. One such street in particular is colloquially known as "Block Beautiful" for its gorgeous mixture of architectural triumphs. Also of architectural significance in the area is the Romanesque Revival-style St. George's Church.

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