34 Gramercy Park

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34 Gramercy Park East, New York City, NY

34 Gramercy Park
34GramercyPark-NYC-DetailBrickWork1.jpg

The mysterious 34 Gramercy Park cooperative
Building Information
Developer Charles A. Gerlach
Architect George W. DaCunha
Number of Units 48
Number of Floors 10
Year Built 1883
Construction Method Concrete
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34 Gramercy Park East, New York City, NY, United States
Distance to Public Transit Less than one block
Region New York City
Municipality New York City
Zoning R9A
Title of Land Cooperative


Contents

Background

34 Gramercy Park is known as the first cooperative in New York City. It was completed in 1883, pre-dating even the Dakota which was completed the following year.

The red brick façade of 34 Gramercy Park
Elliot Willensky and Norval White described 34 Gramercy Park in the book, "The A.I.A. Guide to New York City," (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1988) as, "A craggy, mysterious red brick and red terra-cotta pile whose Queen Anne forms are among the city’s most spectacular."

It certainly is an interesting building to view with crags and turret-like corners guarding the light-court entrance, bay window projections, indented corner corners, and several façade projections topped with a few triangular pediments for additional interest.

It began its existence as an apartment building in an era where the higher floors were not considered anymore attractive than the lower ones. Instead, the conventional wisdom of the time was to price all the apartments equally to avoid the formation of a 'caste system' within the structure. Of course that mode of thought has changed today. But it may also have something to do with the new-fangled and somewhat unreliable elevators of the period. Many elevator accidents had been reported in New York City since the first elevator ever, was installed in 1857 in the Haughtout China and Glassware Store on Broadway and Broome Street.[1]

34 Gramercy Park has weathered many winters
Over the years, some of the apartments were combined and others were divided to form different layouts. In its current configuration, it contains 48 suites within its 10 floors.

Another advantage of 34 Gramercy Park is that it overlooks Gramercy Park itself and residents are eligible to get a key to the park gates reserved only for property owners around the park itself. Gramercy Park is the last private park in New York City and it also has a long and storied history.

The neighborhood of Gramercy Park is peaceful and filled with a variety of architectural examples including Neo-Gothic, Greek Revival, and Italianate styles. Zoning restrictions within the area limit building heights to 20 stories preserving the historic three and four story buildings each with their own interesting story to tell.



Location

The grid layout of the area around Gramercy Park on an 1853 real estate map
Samuel B. Ruggles was a lawyer and a politician from New York City. He was also a large landholder and deeded the property that is today Gramercy Park, with many strict covenants to preserve the space and restrict the type of development surrounding the park. The use of the the land around the park was for residential use only and residents who lived there would by taxed appropriately to maintain the park. Ruggles was also instrumental in getting Union Square started.

Of parks and open spaces, he wrote, "Come what will, our open squares will remain forever imperishable. Buildings, towers, palaces, may moulder and crumble beneath the touch of time; but space-free, glorious, open space will remain to bless the City forever."

Meanwhile, a nice peaceful neighborhood grew up around park which has even been described as boring. But residents only have to go a block or two to find "un-boring" parts of the city. Groceries are handy, just around the corner.

Coffee places and bars, within a two block area. In keeping with the quiet and peaceful theme, Gramercy Park is a good place for families so there are more than a half dozen schools within blocks of the building.[2]


Construction

34 Gramercy Park is a Renaissance Revival style of a building. It does feature other design aspects as well. Angles and lines of the structure have a Victorian influence.

A closer view of the brick and terracotta work of 34 Gramercy Park
This red brick with brownstone trim building has numerous terracotta highlights displaying intricate designs. The entrance itself is highly noticeable with its six pillars on pedestals on either side of the large main door with shiny brass hardware. The pillars hold up an elaborately ornamented roof over hanging the entrance way with the name "GRAMERCY" molded into the stone work for all time.
No mistaking the name of this building
The bottom two floors are finished with brownstone and terracotta blocks forming designs and detailed intricacies along the jags and juts of the façade. A light court is recessed into the building above the entrance and each floor is marked with a string-course following the contours of the building walls.

The upper floors are clad with red brick and there are several vertical prominences the height of the building that are topped with gable shaped pediments all elaborately decorated. One corner of the light court over the entrance protrudes from the building forming a turret-like feature with flat surfaces rather than a cylinder. It culminates with an octagonal cone shaped tile roof.

The original cable operated hydraulic elevator was finally replaced after more than 110 years of service, with a new modern electric elevator, sometime in the mid-1990s. They sure don't build them like they used to, do they.[3]

Layout and Features

34 Gramercy Park was originally designed to have only three apartments per floor, all large and spacious. They were originally marketed as "French Flats" in order to distinguish them from the tenement buildings elsewhere. Modifications have taken place over the years where some suites have been divided to form smaller ones and others to form bigger suites. It seems to be stable at 48 for the time being.

It's a fairly amenity-lean cooperative by not having a health club or a sundeck, and of course, no parking garage. The vehicles of 1883 were usually stored in another location.

Still, the building is intriguing through its architecture alone. The location overlooking Gramercy Park is, of course, another aspect of its attraction. Residents are greeted by a doorman ... and they get keys to Gramercy Park.[4]


Floor Plans

Currently, there are about 12 floor plans for 34 Gramercy Park. Various combinations of combining and separating apartments have occurred over the last century. Here are a few samples from today:


Amenities

  • Doorman
  • Intriguing architecture
  • Elevator - new and improved
  • Overlooks Gramercy Park
  • Residents have keys to Gramercy Park
  • High ceilings


  • No garage
  • No sundeck
  • No health club

Bylaws

34 Gramercy Park Bylaws
Rentals No
Age No



  • No records of any rental transactions have been found.

Sustainability

As with other buildings built before the 1980s and 1990s, little or no thought was placed on the concept of a "green building" when 34 Gramercy Park was built. All environmentally conscious aspects had to be added later.

As renovations and new inventions were introduced in the world, the apartments within were retrofitted new wiring for electricity and for communications, as telephone service and later, Internet service was introduced.

This sound structure has withstood many seasonal changes and has fulfilled its purpose by housing its residents comfortably. The building has not needed to be replaced by a newer structure that would impact the environment. It appears that it will continue to serve that purpose for many years to come.


Trivia

The NY Landmarks Preservation Foundation plaque
Many notable residents have called 34 Gramercy Park home. Among them include:
  • James Cagney (July 17, 1899 – March 30, 1986) - star of stage and screen. Cagney was a dancer and an actor who got his start in vaudeville. He is perhaps best known for his role as a mean petty killer in the movie "The Public Enemy". He went on to make several gangster related films.


  • Margaret Hamilton (December 9, 1902 – May 16, 1985) - actor - probably best known for her role as Miss Almira Gulch, or more commonly known as, The Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz from 1939. Hamilton's line from The Wizard of Oz — "I'll get you, my pretty ... and your little dog, too!" — was ranked 99th in the 2005 American Film Institute survey of the most memorable movie quotes.
Emma Cecilia Thursby


  • Jonathan Frid - (December 2, 1924 – April 14, 2012) - a Canadian actor, perhaps most popularly known for his role as Barnabas Collins, a vampire on a Gothic cult television series called Dark Shadows. It ran from 1966 to 1971. Frid appeared in many movies and on stage. He reprized the role of Barnabas Collins 39 years later in 2011 for a cameo appearance in Tim Burton's Dark Shadows film. It would be his last screen appearance.


  • Emma Cecilia Thursby - (February 21, 1845 – July 4, 1931) - a singer. Her soprano voice was notable for its clarity, power, and range (from middle C to E-flat above the staff). She drew acclaim in the 1860s and 1870s and toured extensively throughout America and Europe for her performances. She later became a teacher and was the professor of music at the Institute of Musical Art, now called the Julliard School. Thursby died at her home in Gramercy Park, New York City, in 1931.[5]

References

  1. City Realty - Review
  2. Walk Score
  3. NY Times - Real Estate
  4. City Realty
  5. Wikipedia - Emma Cecilia Thursby


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