Gallivanting Around Gramercy in NYC

Gramercy has a distinctive appeal: the neighbourhood feels so European, reminiscent even, of Barcelona with its wrought-iron balconies, greenery, Gothic architecture and relaxed vibe. Located only a blocks away from the hustle of Park Avenue and the bustle of Union Square, Gramercy makes for a peaceful enclave in an otherwise busy part of Manhattan.

Wrought Iron Verandahs wrap around houses built in the 1840s; the house to the left was the home of former NYC mayor James Harper

Mini Miner – or Cooper, for those in the US – against Tudor architecture

Formerly the “Gramercy Park Clubhouse”, this Neo-Gothic building was completed in 1910

Overlooking a gated park

There’s a lot of history here, mixed with intrigue and a dash of bohemia. Bordered by 14th and 23rd streets, and 1st and Park Avenues, Gramercy’s grid was traversed by Mark Twain, Theodore Roosevelt and Washington Irving, who wrote The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.

Irving Place, which runs between 3rd and Park Avenues, is lined with great dining spots – from the coffee underworld of 71 Irving Place to Casa Mono by Mario Batali. This street leads to the heart of the Gramercy neighbourhood, its park.

Oh, and Oscar Wilde lived on the corner of 17th Street and Irving Place for a while.

Casa Mono – by the inspiring chef, Mario Batali

Retreat into 71 Irving Place for a creamy soy latte and buttery croissant…

… and voila!

Pete’s Tavern is New York’s oldest surviving saloon, where O’Henry wrote “The Gift of the Magi.” It survived Prohibition, disguised as a flower shop.

Gramercy Park is located between 20th and 21st streets, and ends Lexington Avenue, with Irving Place abutting it on the southern end. It was designed as a private garden, to be enjoyed by the residents living along its perimeter. When Samuel B. Ruggles constructed the area in 1831, he gave those buyers a key to its gate. The public may access the garden only on Christmas Eve.

Statue of Shakespearean actor, Edwin Booth, with The Chrysler in distance

Overlooking this garden are homes where once lived prominent figures including former NYC mayor James Harper, actor James Cagney, painter and teacher Robert Henri, actor John Barrymore. More recently, Winona Rydner, Kate Hudson, Jimmy Fallon, and NBC News anchor, Ann Curry, have lived/live in the area. While this is no secret garden, it is certainly one that you hope to have the privilege of entering.

The National Arts Club (1884) was the former residence of Samuel Tilden. It’s a National landmark and overlooks Gramercy Park.

Red bricks. A peeling wall.

Entrance to the former “Gramercy Park Clubhouse,” the residence of many society figures, writers, artists, editors. John Barrymore lived here.

Various architectural styles.

Also opposite the park, and alongside architecturally elaborate neighbours, stands the modern and boxy Gramercy Park Hotel. Behind its limestone facade, you’ll discover richly textured interior design.

The Gramercy Park Hotel

Hotel entrance

The hotel originally opened in 1925. It plays host to the stars, and back in the day, was a frequent gathering spot for artists and writers. Humphrey Bogart married his first wife here; Bob Marley favoured its reputation for discretion; Madonna, Debbie Harry and David Bowie were guests.

Fast forward a few decades, and in 2003 the Gramercy Park Hotel received a needed renovation. Ian Schrager and Julian Schanbel were the modern-day masterminds behind its reinvention, a grand and opulent revival that pays homage to its days of glory.Β  As soon as you enter the lobby, you’re welcomed by a dramatic crystal Venetian chandelier, and enveloped in rich red velvets, centuries-old furnishings, and art by Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Damien Hirst, and Schnabel himself.

The Rose Bar and its sawtooth chandelier

Lounging against art

Β Jade Bar

The interior design puts you in a state of wonder – exactly how you’d like to feel when staying in a home away from home. It’s so plush and inviting, eclectic yet harmonious, chicer than shabby. It’s “luxurious bohemia”.

The black&white chessboard floor tiles were imported from Morocco

The gorgeous rooftop, called Gramercy Terrace, is a lavish ivy adorned sunroom, seventeen stories above street level…

I’m no stranger to the Gramercy neighbourhood or the Gramercy Park Hotel, yet today’s jaunt left a lasting impression on me. I felt a world away from the usual and I found comfort in that. Perhaps the perfect winter morning – blue skies, mild temps – had something to do with it. I really didn’t want to leave.

Please don’t let me wake up from this dream… an unfortunate elevator descent.

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44 thoughts on “Gallivanting Around Gramercy in NYC

  1. Marina,

    What a wonderful set of images. Gramercy Park is my old stomping grounds. I had a studio apartment on 17th between 3rd and Irving way back when. I used to walk my dog around the park and wonder what it would be like to have a key. Thanks for the memories. Haven’t been to Pete’s Tavern in a million years.

    • Lucky you – nice hood! I am just in love with Gramercy Park Hotel. It has such a different vibe in the day vs the night. Glad to provide some history as I learn too! Thanks so much πŸ™‚

  2. Marina,
    Another set of beautiful photos! I’ll be in NYC next week thanks to your inspiration. You keep posting these amazing photos that I just had to visit. If I can capture some good photos of your city that are even half as good as yours, I’d be very happy. Woo hoo! I can already taste the brioche caramellato at Maialino.

    • Thanks Daisy! Have an amazing trip and I look forward to your post on Maialino!! Isn’t GPH the best hotel ever?! The rooftop – I love it. So peaceful and so different. So glad that you’ve been inspired. I hope you also make it to Brooklyn! Very excited for you!

      • Yes, I’ve got a couple of spots in Brooklyn to visit – Baked in Red Hook, Egg in Williamsburg, and Mile End Deli. I have to eat 6 times a day the entire time I’m there to get all my food stops in. LOL!

      • Toby’s Estate, a new coffee spot run by Aussies, just opened up on nth sixth and Bedford (near Egg). You should check it out! Looking forward to seeing your meal images!

  3. Great post…as always I learned a lot…I live close by so learning all these facts was really neat…I have not been to GH yet but the pictures are so beautiful that I will definitely have to check it out….and I would love to visit the park for sure.

    • Hi Barbara! You live in a great part of the city! I hope you may visit the Hotel – it really is beautiful in the daytime as you notice so many details; evenings are great for a cocktail in the Rose Bar too. Thanks for your comment. Let me know if you get hold of the key!

  4. Fabulous Marina! I think the Gramercy Park Hotel will fit the bill perfectly when I visit New York… Talking of bills, I guess it’d be quite a large one. Well done on the photos! Your picture of the Gramercy Park Clubhouse and the statue of Edwin Booth are my particular favourites but they’re all grest and as ever, the writing is full of interesting detail and a pleasure to read. πŸ™‚

    • Adrian, if you can stay at the Gramercy park Hotel, I recommend it. There was something about it that was just so comforting yesterday – I really got inspired by it – the art, the ‘redness’, the details, the warmth – and I so didn’t want to leave. I took your advice and used f16 for that shot of the Chrysler and Edwin Booth – I think it came out better than if I had gone any higher. Thanks for your advice and for your lovely comment!

  5. I know so little of New York that your posts are a real learning curve for me. Great pictures – but they do take a long time to open (you can prepare them in Photoshop for the internet if you reduce the size to 1250px on the longest edge, click on File>Save for Web and Devices. Follow the instructions on the page that opens with your picture and save to a file. It really makes them open much, much quicker)

    • Thanks Val – your comments are always so fun to read! I am glad you enjoyed the post! I love that phone too – there was so much to look at in the hotel, yet the classic phone made a subtle move for my attention πŸ™‚

    • Thanks Roberto! Gramercy and its Park aren’t really a secret; it’s just that the little green square is accessible to so few people. If you ever get hold of that key, you better let me know πŸ˜‰

  6. Hello! I just found your blog. Love this post! My stepdaughter lives in Manhattan and we visit frequently! I will put this on our areas to explore next time we are in the city! Thanks for the info!!

    • Thanks for having a read of the post – Gramercy must be visited! You’ll really love it. I also hope you may visit Brooklyn – DUMBO especially – as it’s a great borough for seeing Manhattan views and having some good food+wine+coffee. I have written a few posts about the area. If you need any recommendations or suggestions, do let me know.

  7. Another fantastic set of pictures. I always feel that I’m travelling around as well, looking & reading the details of your tour. We have talked about coming to NY one day & looking at your blog is definitely making it a future plan, sooner the better.

    • Thanks so much for having a look, and taking the tour. I hope you do get to NY soon; with your passion for photography, you’ll definitely have alot of subject matter πŸ™‚ Let me know when you make the holiday booking!

    • Thanks – I’m glad you liked the post! It’s such a beautiful sunroom-esque terrace isn’t it? AND the soy latte is wonderful at 71 Irving. Good soy milk and so creamy!! I hope you visit soon!

    • Thanks πŸ™‚ I’m still using the retouch on the Nikon and did love photographing those hotel interiors. I love hotels anyway – heck, I did a marketing/hospitality degree, so that shouldn’t come as a surprise to me! Hoping to evolve more as the blog continues and your support is so appreciated πŸ™‚

  8. OH What a life you lead!
    Here I am crouched over my keyboard, typing by candle-light in fingerless mittens coz the meters run out of pennies, making a tea-bag last a week, reading about you living it up on the Gramercy Terrace….
    You make an old man very happy!

  9. I love to see the city from your perspective. It always seems so alive and full of little details, I bet, other people don’t even notice! A good photographic eye! πŸ˜€ I love that picture with the Shakespearean statue in the park and the Chrysler Tower in the distance πŸ™‚ It gives me a perfect idea of how beautiful your city is πŸ™‚

    • Thanks so much for your lovely comment Kristina! I do think I notice more having a camera in my hand. When you visit NYC, most definitely visit Gramercy Park. It’s such a beautiful neighbourhood and I know that the guests at the Gramercy Park Hotel have access to a key to visit the park πŸ˜‰

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