You may not be able to enter this private park (the only truly private park in Manhattan—only those residing around it have keys), but a look through the bars in the wrought-iron fence that encloses it is worth your time, as is a stroll around its perimeter. The beautifully planted 2-acre park, designed by developer Samuel B. Ruggles, dates from 1831, and is flanked by grand examples of early-19th-century architecture and permeated with the character of its many celebrated occupants.
When Ruggles bought the property, it was known as Krom Moerasje ("little crooked swamp"), named by the Dutch settlers. He drained the swamp and set aside 42 lots for a park to be accessible exclusively to those who bought the surrounding lots in his planned London-style residential square. The park is still owned by residents of the buildings surrounding the square, although neighbors from the area can now buy visiting privileges. Guests of the Gramercy Park Hotel also enjoy coveted access to this
private park. In 1966 the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission designated Gramercy Park a historic district. Notable buildings include No. 15, a Gothic Revival brownstone with black granite trim designed by Calvert Vaux, was once home to Samuel Tilden, governor of New York. A secret passageway to 19th Street permitted Tilden to evade his political enemies. It is now home to the 100-year-old National Arts Club. Next door at No. 16 Gramercy Park South lived the actor Edwin Booth, perhaps most famous for being the brother of Lincoln's assassin. In 1888 he turned his Gothic-trim home into the Players Club, a clubhouse for actors and theatrical types who were not welcome in regular society. A bronze statue of Edwin Booth as Hamlet has pride of place inside the park. Alexander Calder’s iconic, monumental outdoor sculpture Janey Waney (1969) is installed inside the park and can be viewed through the railings.