36 Gramercy Park East

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36 Gramercy Park East, New York, NY

36 Gramercy Park East

Gleaming white terracotta Exterior
Building Information
Developer John E. Olsen
Architect James Riely Gordon
Number of Units 51
Number of Floors 14
Year Built 1908
Construction Method Concrete
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36 Gramercy Park East, Gramercy Park East, New York, NY, United States
Distance to Public Transit Les than one block
Region New York City
Municipality New York City
Zoning R9A
Title of Land Condominium



36 Gramercy Park East was the last rental building facing Gramercy Park. It currently holds the title as the first condominium among the 66 lots surrounding the private paradise. [1]

One of the previous residences, was Albert Ringling of the Ringling Brother Circus.

Albert Ringling, a former resident
In 1882, five of the seven Ringling Brothers performed skits and various other activities in the town halls around Wisconsin. They called themselves the Ringling Brothers Classic and Comedic Concert Company. They saved up all the money they could to purchase suits.

The circus began in 1884 and the Ringling Brothers partnered with Yankee Robinson, who had been a famous showman. They traveled around the mid-west performing the one ring circus. Robinson had passed away in 1884, before the end of the circus season.

By the late 1880s, the circus had become the largest and most well organized circus in the country. Each brother had their own job, Alfred's was to publicize the show. When running the show in 1887, they were under the name of "Ringling Brothers United Monster Shows, Great Double Circus, Royal European Menagerie, Museum, Caravan and Congress of Trained Animals."

In 1889, railroad cars were purchased from Philadelphia and parade equipment was purchased from a showman. This purchase allowed the circus to travel more than 15 miles a night, and they were able to hit all the big city's and make the big profits.[2]

In 1919, the Ringling's joined with the Barnum and Bailey Circus.

On July 6th 1944, more than 7,500 people were at the career ending tragedy. Emmett Kelley, the tramp clown, threw a bucket of water at a burning canvas in attempt to put a fire out that was burning the tent in which a performance was being held. The effort did not solve the problem, yet the show went on. If the crowd had been informed of the fire, maybe no one would have been hurt.

100 people died, and some are still unidentified, even with modern DNA testing. With the following investigation, it was determined that the tent had not been fire proof, which is a priority. Several members of the Ringling Brothers were sentenced to jail.


Fenced Gramercy Park and the surrounding Neighbourhood
Unveiling of Edwin Booth as Hamlet, 1913
Character of buildings in the Neighbourhood

36 Gramercy Park has multiple amenities withing walking distance. The closest are Exchange Bar and Grill restaurant, Dunkin' Doughnuts coffee, Eden Farm Inc groceries and Brotherhood Nursery School.[3]

The neighborhood has a safe and quiet reputation and is home to many families looking for a low-key lifestyle. The area has a small-town feel due to the lack of large attractions and activity. Many of the buildings are brownstones and are known to be some of the prettiest in the city.[4]

Recommended places to go are Friend of a Farmer, Ichabod's, Mumbles, Headless Horseman, Brother Jimmy's, City Opera Thrift Shop and East River.

Out side of the neighborhood, but not far is "hospital row." There are also two public schools in the area, Washington Irving High School and the School of the Future. Other services include the Calvary Episcopal Church, Union Square and Madison Square Park.

Views of Gramercy Park are seen from the resident units at 36 Gramercy Park. The park was developed in 1831 and is one of the only two private parks in New York City. Residents around the park looking for access have to pay an annual fee and are presented with a key.

The name Gramercy is indirectly derived from the Dutch word Moerasje, which means "little crooked swamp". The land for the park was bought by Samuel B. Ruggles from James Duane, son of Mayor James Duane, who had had a farm known as Gramercy Farm. Ruggles spent $180,000 landscaping the land. He drained the swamp, and removed about a million loads of earth via horse cart.

Surrounding the park, Ruggles planned to lay out "Gramercy Square" consisting of 66 parcels of land". The park was completed in 1833 but the surrounding lots were still undeveloped until construction started in the 1840s.

The center of the Park features a statue of Edwin Booth, which was dedicated in 1918. Booth had been one of the great Shakespearean actors of the time, and his brother, John Wilkes Booth, was the assassin of Abraham Lincoln.[5]


Historical image of 36 Gramercy Park East
Original Floor Plans
Scaffolding was required during the exterior maintenance

The Sanderson’s Family Hotel, demolished in the 1880s, had originally stood on the lot that is now 36 Gramercy Park East. The property is 83 by 84 feet.

Originally, the apartment housed 24 apartments, two per floor. Each suite had nine rooms and three backrooms. The rooms consisted of three bathrooms, and rooms for the maid, valet, butler or chauffeur.

Features of the original rooms included tile fireplaces, porcelain washtubs, white tiled kitchens and bathrooms, ventilated garbage closets, safes, telephones, steam heat, mail chutes, gas ranges, shower baths, a clothes dryer, both electric and gas lighting, filtered water, a vacuum cleaning system and tile lined refrigerators.

Many of the original design characteristics have been maintained, despite the complete renovation.

A roof solarium, laundry facilities, and parquet floors were intended to appeal to potential upper class residents. In 1917, penthouses were added, but the change was not visible from the exterior street level.

Initially, the first three floors were to be clad in white marble, but that material proved too expensive for the total $300,000 projected cost of the building. The apartments sold for $8,900 to $12,000.

The building was owned by Gramercy Park Club, until bankruptcy in 1946. After this, the apartments were sold and the units became rentals. The new owners has retrofitted the 24 apartments into 53, and added libraries, and modernized the maids' quarters.

In November of 1971, many of the tenants picketed in front of the building protesting “the living conditions they get in return for rents of $500 or $800 a month,” according to The New York Times.

In 2003, the building's most recent owners began renovations, cleaning and polishing the marble walls, replacing the old elevators and rejoining some of the cut-up apartments. Despite this, tenants complained about the old water pipes and the inconvenience of having to carry garbage down to the basement.[6]

The exterior is clad with white terracotta with high levels of architectural detail making it one of the most recognizable Gothic buildings. The reason why this material was so popular at the time, was due to the fact that it was fire proof. Most of the construction world was terrified of creating any sort of fire hazard after the Great Chicago Fire. It is also cheaper than stone, and much lighter.

The structural walls are composed of brick and spanned with steel channels and Guy B. Waite hollow paneled concrete arches. The basement of the building was finished with ashlar and granite. The windows at the level are covered with metal grates.[7]

To maintain its original authenticity, custom-made glass lantern replicas were made to replace the originals.[8] The original gargoyles and life sized knights also remain, unaltered since they were first installed.[9]

Layout and Features

Since the renovation, many features have been added and updated. Thankfully, the classic characteristic of the building was maintained even with all the upgrades. Original white bathrooms, are still white and the details on the exterior are reflected on the interior as well. The high ceilings were also preserved.[10]

All suites were renovated to have herringbone floors, hand crafted ceiling moldings, formal dining rooms, custom wood kitchen cabinets, honed marble counter tops and en-suite bathrooms.[11]

Some of the suites have powder rooms, wine coolers, heated marble floors, a soaking tub, double vanity sinks, and fireplaces.[12]

Floor Plans


The updated luxury amenities include:

  • 24 hour doorman
  • concierge service
  • key and membership to Gramercy Park
  • health club membership
  • bicycle storage
  • cold storage
  • storage facilities[13]
  • laundry facilities


36 Gramercy Park East Bylaws
Rentals Yes
Pets Yes
Age No

  • Leasing allowed after one year of ownership
  • Pets are allowed[14]


Forests are at risk of being over-logged if we continue to construct new buildings

The building was not originally constructed with green initiatives. Making sure the building stayed up was the main goal at the time. Even during the recent renovations, no documented sustainability practices seem to have been used.

However, restoring an older building, opposed to tearing it down and constructing a brand new one has its own benefits.

  • Virgin materials such as trees and other raw materials are not required to be harvested when a building is simply restored.
  • Alternatively, new construction can seek salvaged materials which can either be re-used or recycled.

Concerns arise when the energy consumption of the building is considered. The internal mechanical systems, may not have been replaced. Therefore, inefficient materials may still be in use.

The major source of energy consumption in older building has to do with heat loss. Older buildings may not be properly insulated and are susceptible to air leakage. With this combination, there is a large amount of heat lost creating the need for higher energy use to keep the building at a constant temperature.

A benefit to this building is that it is clad with brick, which serves as a thermal mass. Thermal mass absorbs the heat energy from the sun, or other heat source, and releases it as indoor temperatures become cooler. Whether or not it was more environmentally friendly to maintain this building, or tear it down and construct a new one, all depends on the practices and plans of the proposed building and its life-cycle cost.


The original Stuart Little story was based in Gramercy Park
  • The neighborhood was once home to Theodore Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy as well as James Cagney and Margaret Hamilton.[15]
  • 36 Gramercy Park East was the home to Eugene O'Neill, Mark Twain, John & Ethel Barrymore.[16]
  • Because Gramercy Park is private, film companies are not usually allowed to shoot there.
  • Jim Parsons (Dr. Sheldon Cooper from television show, The Big Bang Theory) and his fiancée Todd Allan Spiewak just purchased an apartment together at 36 Gramercy Park East.[17]
  • At the time of construction, New York City generally sold 40-45% of the apartment units and would leave the rest as rentals in order to maintain an income that would cover maintenance. This building sold all of its units and there was no source of income.
  • Businesses were originally not permitted in the area except Churches and institutions.[18]
  • To everyone's surprise, despite the strict privacy rules at Gramercy Park, the park was opened to Union soldiers who were involved in controlling the Draft Riots of 1863. This working-class discontent soon turned to one of America's largest civil insurrections in history. Rioters resented the fact that wealthier men could pay a $300 commutation fee to hire a substitute, and were then spared the draft. Also, the largely working class rioters were afraid of potential job losses that might be filled by the emancipated slaves.
  • Number 34 and 36 Gramercy Park East are two of New York City's first apartment buildings. Number 34 is the oldest existing co-operative apartment building in the city.
  • In E. B. White's children's book Stuart Little, the Little family live at "22 Gramercy Park"


  1. Curbed
  2. Ringling Brother Circus
  3. Walk Score
  4. Urban Compass
  5. Wikipedia - Gramercy Park
  6. Dayton in Manhattan
  7. NYC Gov
  8. 36 Gramercy Park East
  9. Content Unique Homes
  10. City Realty
  11. Buzz Buzz Home
  12. Street Easy
  13. 36 Gramercy Park East
  14. Street Easy
  15. 36 Gramercy Park East
  16. NY Curbed
  17. Observer
  18. NYC Gov

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