An Autumn Saunter Around Gramercy Park

Today I met a client on East 31st (between Park & Lex) to view an apartment. Since we had a little bit of time to kill, before our next appointment, we decided to walk south, down Park Avenue. As we walked down Park Avenue South, my British client mentioned that he had not been to Gramercy Park…Well, I couldn’t have him saying this to others! Everyone should visit Gramercy, at least once!

So we headed east off of PAS onto East 21st, and the day was picturesque–a quintessential autumn moment in New York. I had mentioned previously to my client, who will call “T”, that Gramercy Park was the famous park scene and location for the film Notting Hill. As we sauntered around this off-limits park, I mentioned to T that he should take his girlfriend to the Rose Bar at the Gramercy Park Hotel for a beverage and then sneak into the park (as in the film) for a romantic rendezvous…(I do not think he found my suggestion very, let’s say, engagingly romantic.) He switched the subject to a little NYC trivia, which I did not know.

Sidebar: I love working with foreigners. They truly embrace this city and want to learn everything that is “unknown.”

T mentioned that he read in City Secrets: New York City, that Worth Street in TriBeCa was named after Major General William Jenkins Worth. Well, I absolutely love learning new things! This prompted me to investigate…
Yes, Worth Street was indeed named after the same man that the city of Fort Worth, Texas is famed. Also, the burial spot of General Worth is one of only three private graves in all of New York City.
According to the Bowery Boys:
Worth Square, next to Madison Square and just feet from the Flatiron Building, is one of those odd traffic islands that’s hardly a place of peace and repose. Broadway and Fifth Avenue rush by on either side and the traffic of 23rd street hurls by on its south side. But it’s here that a monument stands in honor of Worth, a general in the oft-forgotten Mexican-American war, which won for the United States the state of Texas and eventually George W. Bush.

Worth served admirably in many battles of the conflict, becoming the first general in American military history to engage off the shores of Veracruz in ‘amphibious warfare’ — namely, the strategic usage of approaches from the water to engage in combat on land. In 1847 he also personally hoisted the American flag above the palace in Mexico City after the US’s victorious conquest there.

Within two years he would be dead of cholera, transported to Brooklyn and buried in Greenwood Cemetery, the hotspot for dead celebrities in the 19th century. Days later, he was dug up, brought to Manhattan, and buried at this unusual spot underneath an impressive obelisk designed by James Batterson (later to be the go-to guy for Civil War monuments).Forgotten NY says that the iron rod gate surrounding this solemn monument is a revered example of iron craftsmanship.

Worth’s remains were placed here in a solemn ceremony involving almost 6,500 soldiers in march. Etched upon the monument is a listing of all the battles Worth participated in.

Worth was born in Hudson, NY, and briefly moved to Albany, but he has no meaningful connection to New York City. Although I have found no definite conclusion as to why he’s buried here, a couple points to consider don’t make it seem so odd:

o Worth served under then-general Zachary Taylor at the start of the Mexican-American War. By the time Worth died, Taylor was the president of the United States. Certainly some political favoritism was at play.
o The monument’s location was considered peaceful at one time. Adjacent Madison Square opened two years prior and the building boom that would give us Flatiron, the Met Life Tower and the other beautiful buildings surrounding the park wouldn’t occur for decades. The obelisk would have towered over everything. It would have truly been a sincere honor to be placed here.

The respect New Yorkers had Worth extended downtown to Worth Street, which was, incidentally, one of the five streets intersecting to create the notorious Five Points district. Another of the Five Points intersection streets — Baxter Street — is named after Charles Baxter, who died in the Mexican-American War.

So, there it is, a Brit fueled my mind in learning a little more about this city, I call home.

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