Cyrus W. Field's Residence
( Originally Published 1921 )
Gramercy Park celebrated the completion of the Atlantic Cable by a grand illumination and, as the chief promoter of the undertaking and as the man whose energy and persistence contributed most largely to its success, Cyrus W. Field attained world-wide distinction. The greatness of the accomplishment was recognized by Congress, which presented to Mr. Field a gold medal and the thanks of the nation; John Bright described him as the "Columbus of modern times, who, by his cable, has moored the new world alongside the old"; and at the Paris Exposition of 1867 he was awarded the grand medal, the highest prize which it could bestow. The New York Chamber of Congress elected Mr. Field an honorary member and presented him with a gold medal, and subsequently caused to be executed the painting of the projectors of the Atlantic Cable, which is here reproduced.
The house which he occupied subsequently became the residence of Henry W. Poor, and through the artistic skill of Stanford White was converted, as to its interior, into a veritable Italian palace, rich in foreign spoil of carvings, tapestries and furniture, which has been appreciatively described by the author of "The House Dignified," who incidentally gives us a picture of the Park too charming to be omitted. "The library," he says, "overlooks a city square where Magnolias blossom in the Spring, and flowers under arching trees bloom all the Summer through. To one who enters here, the quiet stretches of the square and the sky beyond seem suddenly and somehow to belong to libraries, so great is the sense of repose and refreshment they inspire."
David Dudley Field, the brother of Cyrus W. Field, who was also a resident of the Park, was the legal advisor of the Cable Company and one of the most prominent lawyers in New York. He will always be remembered by the Bar as the author of the Codes of Civil and Criminal Procedure which were adopted by this State and have greatly influenced the judicial procedure of many other states, and furnished the basis of the reforms established by the Judicature Acts of England and several of its colonies. As counsel for Jay Gould and James Fiske in the litigations of the Erie Railroad, and of William M. Tweed in the "Tweed Ring" scandal, and as the originator of the scheme for the Electoral Commission in 1876 which defeated the election of his neighbor, Samuel J. Tilden, to the presidency, Mr. Field gained notoriety at the expense of popularity.
Among the earliest settlers of the Park was James Harper, one of the founders of the firm of Harper & Brothers, which published its first book in 1817 and was for many years the leading publishing house in this country. He lived at No. 4 from 1847 until 1869, and was the second in our succession of Mayors of the City, holding that office in 1844 and 1845. In his "Reminiscences of an Octogenarian" Charles Haswell writes that "Mayor Harper signalized his administration by active service in the improvement of Madison Square, and in improving the organization of the police department. His administration partook of the purity of that of his early predecessors in the office, but without the savoir faire and pratiques of some of the local politicians who succeeded him." It seems that in Mayor Harper's time the police were unorganized and wore no uniform, and that he succeeded with the vigorous support of his neighbor, James W. Gerard, in laying the foundation for the present police department and in putting the force in uniform. The traditional Mayor's lamps still stand in front of his former residence as emblems of his municipal dignity.
Mr. Gerard, already mentioned as a trustee of the Park, in addition to being an eminent lawyer and an authority on colonial history, was actively interested in the public schools of the City and the prevention of pauperism, and deserves to be remembered, especially as the originator of the plan for the establishment of the "House of Refuge for Juvenile Delinquents," which was incorporated in 1824, and was the first institution of its kind in the United States.