Gramercy Park is a private, fenced-in park located between East 20th Street and East 21st Street in the Manhattan part of New York City. The history of Gramercy Park is just as rich and diverse as the city itself. The area that is now Gramercy Park New York started out as swamp land. In 1831, a developer named Samuel B. Ruggles (1800-1881) proposed the idea of a park on the property then owned by James Duane called Gramercy Farm.
Gramercy Park history started with the draining of the swamp land and the creation of parcels of land around what became the park. Initial landscaping of the private park, surrounded by a fence erected in 1833 that still exists today, took place over the next fifteen years. Additional planting in 1916 softened the park’s prim formal design. Gramercy Park New York was opened to Union soldiers in 1863 to express thanks for protecting the park during the Civil War.
Gramercy Park history includes the neighborhoods surrounding the park. The Player’s Club and two of New York City’s first apartments are among the noted architectural structures in the area. A statue of 19th century actor Edwin Booth as Hamlet was placed in the park by The Player’s Club in 1916. Many of the city’s oldest churches are found in the area along with a former Underground Railroad location. A Victorian mansion that once served as a home for former New York governor Samuel J. Tilden and several charity foundations are also found in the historic areas surrounding the park.
There was an attempt to run a cable car through the park in 1890, but it was defeated by those seeking to preserve the park. In 1966, part of the neighborhood was designated an historic district. The area encompassing the park was officially placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. A 4.5 ton bronze sculpture known as Fantasy Fountain was added in 1983. Gramercy Park remains one of New York’s two privately owned parks, owned by the owners of the surrounding properties as intended by Mr. Ruggles when he first proposed the idea for a park in 1831. Today, the park is still known for its lush greenery and flowers that bloom in early spring and liven up the park well into autumn.
The neighborhood surrounding the park has retained its sense of style, often compared to London’s West End. Zoning laws mean no building in the area is higher than 20 stories tall. However, many older buildings in the area are just three to six stories tall. Gramercy Park Hotel was added to the location in 1925 and remains a popular place for New York visitors to stay. A collection of restaurants and bars known as Irving Place remains a popular place for locals and visitors to gather. The history of Gramercy Park is as rich and diverse as the city itself and continues to delight all who enjoy the park.