A History of Gramercy Park
September 19th, 2018
Residents of Stonehenge NYC’s 8 Gramercy Park are no doubt familiar with the verdant park that stands just outside their front door. It’s a quiet sanctuary in the heart of our bustling city and it has a whole lot of history. Stonehenge NYC is here to hook you up with some of the facts and history behind this breathtaking little park. A Whole Lot Nicer Than A Swamp: These days Gramercy Park is known for its great location, greenery, and exclusivity but in the old days it was just a swamp. That’s right. Frogs and other such swamp denizens claimed this spot long before we New Yorkers did. In fact, the name Gramercy is derived from the dutch “Krom Moerasje”, meaning "little crooked swamp". Over time the word was anglicized into the similar sounding "Gramercy" which is an old-timey English word meaning "many thanks". It took more than $180,000 and nearly a million horse cart loads of dirt to transform it into a usable patch of land. We think it was worth it! A Long Established Trust: The lands around Gramercy were already owned when the area was renovated. A number of townhouses and mansions surrounded the area, and their owners quickly came together to establish a board of trustees. Since then, the Gramercy Park Trust (now called Gramercy Neighborhood Associates) has overseen the well-being of the park. Many of the classic buildings still stand today, including #34, which is the oldest existing cooperative apartment building in Manhattan. A Site of Conflict: Gramercy Park is a sanctuary. It’s one of the few places in the city where you can truly get away from it all--but it’s seen its fair share of conflict. Although it was exclusive at the time, it was opened up to Union soldiers during the Civil War. People were unhappy that a draft had been initiated and riots broke out. The army used Gramercy Park as an encampment for their troops, even putting howitzer cannons in place to defend it. Luckily, the park just has gates these days. No heavy artillery needed. Almost Railroaded: New York City is always growing, which means old things get in the way of new developments. Although Gramercy Park was beloved to those who lived around it, there have sometimes been those who sought opportunity with the land. In 1890, the city was installing new cable cars and wanted to run the track right through Gramercy, which would kind of ruin the whole point of the park. Although the bill passed in the New York State Legislature, it was thankfully vetoed by the Governor. Another attempt was made in 1912 to run a street through the park, but the plan was quashed yet again. A Very Famous Resident: In the center of Gramercy Park stands a statue of one of the area’s most famous residents, though you might not recognize the name. In the 1800’s Edwin Booth was one of most successful Shakespearean actors alive. He traveled the country, putting on performances and earning fans just about everywhere. Sadly, historical events interfered with Edwin’s reputation. His then-lesser-known-but-now-imfamous brother, John Wilkes, stole his spot in history when he assassinated Abraham Lincoln. Unfortunate family relations aside, it’s nice to see old Edwin get a bit of recognition. A 24-Hour Restaurant: New York is the city that never sleeps, which means we New Yorkers want to eat no matter what time it is. That makes a 24-Hour Restaurant a very convenient thing to have around. On the corner of Gramercy Park stands L’Express, an excellent French restaurant that serves up classic fare whenever you want it. It’s the perfect place for a business lunch, casual brunch and even fine dining. It’s just one more reason that Gramercy Park is a great place to live. A Very Swanky Hotel: The location of Gramercy Park means that lots of people want to spend time in the area. If you’re not a resident of Stonehenge’s 8 Gramercy Park South, you can still stay in the at the swanky Gramercy Park Hotel. This iconic hotel was established in 1930 and hosted many famous events, including the first marriage of classic film star Humphrey Bogart. The hotel was revitalized and renovated in 2010 and remains one of the absolute best places to stay if you’re visiting from out of town. It’s also famously popular with celebrities from Bob Dylan to David Bowie. You never know who you might see.