Homes Of Gramercy Square in New York City Pre: 1907

 
 
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Residence of John Bigelow

Mr. Bigelow, one of the best-known citizens of New York, was admitted to the bar in 1839 and in 1850 joined William Cullen Bryant as editor of the New York Evening Post. He continued as one of the principal editors until 1861, when he was appointed consul at Paris, and on the death of Mr. Dayton became United States Minister, remaining so until 1866.

While at Paris he published "Les Etats Unis d' Amerique." This work corrected the erroneous views of the French as to the relative commercial importance of the Northern and Southern States and was effective in discouraging the supposed desire of the French Government for the disruption of the Union.

Mr. Bigelow also conducted the negotiations leading to the withdrawal of the French army from Mexico. In 1875 he was elected to the office of Secretary of State of New York. He has published "The Life of Samuel J. Tilden," of whom he was one of the three executors; "The Mystery of Sleep" and numerous other works. He has been honored by degrees from various colleges and universities.

Former Residence of the Late James W. Gerard

Mr. Gerard was an eminent lawyer. Born in this city in 1794, of French ancestry on his father's side, he graduated from Columbia College in 1811, and in 1816 took the degree of M.A. and was admitted to the bar. A man of great public spirit, he, in 1824, procured the incorporation of the House of Refuge for Juvenile Delinquents, the first institution of the kind in the country. Formerly, the police or "watchmen," as they were called, wore no uniforms. Occasionally, an ordinary looking man would be seen wandering about the streets, and, if the wind happened to turn aside the lapel of his coat, one might observe a small metal shield. This was the only indication of his office. Mr. Gerard publicly advocated the adoption of a uniform and by letters, addresses, and persistent action accomplished his purpose. He wore the new uniform at a fancy dress ball given by Mrs. Coventry Waddell, who occupied a Gothic villa, with tower, turrets, etc., on Fifth Avenue at the top of Murray Hill and entertained a great deal.

Mr. Gerard devoted much of his time to charitable institutions and was especially interested in the public schools of the city. He was a capital speaker. His speeches were witty and always in good taste. That he was in constant demand, in his prime, at dinners both public and private, is readily perceived by looking through the pages of Mayor Philip Hone's diary.

Gramercy Park was founded in 1831 and this is said to be the oldest house facing it.

The Players

Edwin Booth, perhaps the most distinguished American actor, was born in Maryland in 1833.He made his first appearance in 1849 and was ever after devoted to his profession, playing throughout this country and also abroad.

He was crushed by the affair of the assassination of President Lincoln and retired from the stage for a year, but never lost his personal popularity. He opened Booth's Theater in Twenty-third Street in 1869 and for thirteen years maintained the most popular revivals of Shakespeare's tragedies ever known in the city. Although forced into bankruptcy in 1873, he retrieved his fortunes by earning two hundred thousand dollars in fifty-six weeks.

In 1882 he went to Europe and was received with the greatest favor. In 1888 he purchased the building here shown (formerly the residence of Valentine G. Hall), remodeled and furnished it and presented it to actors and the friends of the drama as "The Players," a complete gentleman's club. Booth made his home at "The Players" from the date of its opening until his death, which took place in this house June 7, 1893.

Former Residence of the Late Samuel J. Tilden

Mr. Tilden had a great reputation for skill as a lawyer. He was also a thorough politician, being chairman of the Democratic State Committee of New York for thirteen years. Nominated for President in 1876, he received a majority of the popular vote, but owing to the fact that the votes of several States were disputed, the celebrated Electoral Commission was appointed, consisting of senators, judges, and representatives. The commission divided on party lines and gave the disputed votes to Mr. Hayes. The house is formed by combining two, one formerly having a front similar to that of "The Players," and the other with a front corresponding to the brick house adjoining on the west. The larger house had belonged to the Belden family. Both the Hall and the Belden houses once had ornamental iron balconies at the main floor with canopies similar to those now seen attached to the fronts of the houses on the west side of the square, and were alike in appearance, excepting that the Belden house had the coat of arms carved in high relief over the door. One of the beautiful Misses Belden married the late Dudley Field, another the late Colonel Talmadge.

The gardens in the rear of these two houses were the largest in the row, extending through the block to Nineteenth Street, a part near the Belden house being formally laid out with box-edged walks and flower beds, while the rest was turfed and shaded by large trees, a few of which survived until a year or two ago, when they were cut down to make way for the new building of the National Arts Club, the present owner. Mr. Tilden, joining with the other owners on the square and the owners of the houses on Irving Place, had all the wooden fences in the angle formed by these houses removed and an open iron fence put in their place. As there were no houses on Nineteenth Street, there remained an unusual effect of greenery and trees for New York City.

Former Residence of the Late Rev. Dr. Henry W. Bellows

Dr. Bellows was a distinguished clergyman. Born in 1814, he graduated at Harvard and at the Cambridge Divinity School, and in 1838 became the pastor of the First Unitarian Church, New York, and so continued for forty-four years. Dr. Bellows was an accomplished orator, his extemporaneous speeches being remarkable for their lucidity and style. He published numerous lectures and pamphlets, but is best known throughout the country for his work as president of the United States Sanitary Commission during the Civil War. Under him the commission distributed supplies amounting to fifteen millions of dollars in value and five millions of money. The results of the experience of the commission in their work of reducing the suffering in war have been copied abroad.

Former Residence of the Late Dr. Valentine Mott

Dr. Mott was a distinguished surgeon, and one of the best-known citizens of the small town of sixty or seventy years ago. He previously lived at the easterly end of Depau Row. For many years Dr. M. resided in Paris, during the reign of Louis Philippe, whose physician he was. In 1841 a ball was given for the Prince de Joinville at the Depau Row house, and during the Civil War the Comte de Paris and brothers were entertained at the Gramercy Square house.

Rectory of Calvary Parish

This rectory has been the home of many clergymen celebrated in the community. One of the early rectors was Dr. Francis Lister Hawks. Born at Newbern, N.C., in 1798, he was ordained in 1827 and was conspicuous in the church up to the time of his death in 1866.

In 1844 he became rector of Christ Church, New Orleans, and president of the University of Louisiana, and in 1849 he became rector of this parish. Being of Southern birth, he, at the outbreak of the Civil War, withdrew to the South, but returned after the close of the war. He published many works on ecclesiastical and other subjects. He declined the bishopric of Mississippi and also that of Rhode island.

The Rev. Dr. Arthur Cleveland Cose was at one time rector. He afterwards became the Bishop of Western New York. The Rev. Dr. Henry Yates Satterlee was for many years the well-known rector of this parish. He is now Bishop of Washington.

Former Residence of the Late Cyrus W. Field and the Late David Dudley Field

Cyrus W. Field was a business man until about 1854-56, when with Peter Cooper, Moses Taylor, and others he organized the Atlantic Telegraph Company. Although the first cable was laid in 1858, it was not until 1866 that the enterprise was entirely successful, after Mr. Field had crossed the ocean thirty times in the prosecution of the work. He received the thanks of Congress and many other honors.
His brother, David Dudley Field, was conspicuous at the New York bar for over fifty years. For forty years of this time he devoted all his spare moments to the subject of the reform of the law and obtained a marked success. The new system of civil procedure has been adopted in many States and substantially followed in Great Britain. In 1873 he was elected the first president of an association for the reform and codification of the law of nations formed at Brussels in that year.

The two houses owned by the brothers Field have been united by the present owner, Henry W. Poor, banker and author of the statistical work on American railways universally consulted by bankers and investors throughout the country. The interior has been beautifully reconstructed.


 

Website: The History Box.com
Article Name: Homes Of Gramercy Square in New York City Pre: 1907
Researcher/Preparer/Transcriber Miriam Medina

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BIBLIOGRAPHY: Old Buildings of New York City, Brentano's-New York, 1907
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