The Players and the National Arts Club, both on Gramercy Park, are two of the most famous landmarks that survive from the 19th century.
While Gramercy takes its name from Gramercy Park, the neighborhood is larger than that landmark; its borders are roughly First Avenue to Park and 14th to 23rd. The park itself, which dates from 1831, operates on a model that is common in London but not in New York City: The green oasis is private, with only buildings overlooking it getting keys to its gates. The development of this part of Gramercy began after Union Square was laid out in 1830, though few of the rowhouses and luxury apartment buildings are that old. Most date from the late 19th and early to mid 20th centuries. The area has an even larger park, Stuyvesant Square, over on Second Avenue — and it is open to the public. In general, the farther east you go, the larger and newer the apartment buildings.
The development of the streets to the east of Union Square began soon after that park was laid out, in 1830. Samuel B. Ruggles planned the area and helped create Gramercy Park. He also named Irving Place after Washington Irving, though the claim that the writer once lived in the brick house at Irving and 17th is most likely a later fabrication. Development made its way east over time — Stuyvesant Square was laid out in 1836, while the Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village developments followed much later, in 1947. The Players and the National Arts Club, both on Gramercy Park, are two of the most famous landmarks that survive from the 19th century. New Yorkers today, however, are more likely to think of music venues Irving Plaza and Gramercy Theatre first when it comes to the area’s cultural offerings.
Although most of Gramercy is residential, serious shoppers don’t have to travel far. Union Square, the stretch of Broadway between it and Madison Square Park, and the East Village are all just a short stroll away. And while restaurants can be found throughout the area, they aren’t concentrated on any single main drag. The acclaimed Gramercy Tavern is on 20th, and BLT Prime is on 22nd. On Irving, you’ll find Pete’s Tavern, which describes itself as the oldest continuously operating bar in the city (others dispute that claim), and Casa Mono, a newer tapas bar. The Gramercy Park Hotel’s restaurant and bar are perennially popular. Just as shoppers may want to venture outside the neighborhood, diners can find a greater variety of restaurants on Gramercy’s doorsteps: on Park Avenue, north in “Curry Hill,” or south in the East Village.