( Originally Published 1921 )
The story of the men, who if they have not brought fame to our modest little Park have certainly enriched it with many associations, may well begin with James Duane, for he was as fine an example of the patriot of the Revolution as New York produced. A lawyer of prominence and of high social standing, having married the daughter of Colonel Robert Livingston, he was the friend of John Jay and Alexander Hamilton, and, like them, an ardent advocate of civil and religious freedom. He seems to have enjoyed to an unusual degree the confidence of his fellow citizens and was chosen to represent them as a member of the Continental Congress, of the State Senate when it was first organized, and of the Constitutional Convention of 1788, and it was only the fact that he was serving in the Provincial Congress of 1776, called to frame a State Government, which prevented him from being a signer of the Declaration of Independence. He was also active in municipal affairs and served for many years as a warden of Trinity Church and as a Governor of Kings College, of which he became a Trustee when its name was changed to Columbia. At the close of the Revolution he re-entered the city with Washington on November 25, 1783, to find his house in King, now Pine Street, practically destroyed, but his farm, "Gramercie Seat, in pretty good order, having been occupied by one of the British generals." At this time the mayoralty of the city was an appointive office, the selection resting with the Governor of the State, and the Common Council promptly petitioned the Governor to appoint Duane as the first Mayor of the City, "as no one," they say in their petition, "is better qualified, so none will be more acceptable to us and our constituents at large than Mr. Duane. Few have sacrificed more or deserved better from their country." Accordingly he was appointed Mayor of the City in 1784, and served for six years, during which he officially welcomed Congress when it assembled in New York in 1785 and 1789, and received Washington as the President of the new republic. On his retirement as Mayor he was appointed by Washing-ton Judge of the United States District Court of New York and served in that capacity with the ability and fidelity which distinguished his whole career. Gramercy Park has had two other Mayors and many distinguished residents since Duane's time, but he may well be remembered as being in a literal sense its first citizen.