The private houses of Stuyvesant
Square were built mostly between the 1850s and 1880s. On the south side was the home of
Reginald Marsh, the painter. On the north side, 251 East 17th Street was
Hamilton Fishs house. A later politician, Charles Murphy, last of the prominent
Tammany bosses, lived on East 17th Street in the 1920s.
East 17th Street was the dwelling of the great Czech composer Antonin Dvorak
during his years in the United States. There he wrote Symphony No. 5 (better known as No.
9) in E Minor, Op. 95 ("From the New World"), the Cello Concerto, and other
staples of the classical repertoire. In 1892, at the heights of his career, Dvorak had
been chosen over Sibelius to be director of the National Conservatory of Music of America,
two blocks west on East 17th Street near Irving Place, where Washington Irving
High School is now.
effort to turn the Dvorak House into a monument to music, in which the Stuyvesant Park
Neighborhood Association played a leading role, culminated in its designation as a
cultural landmark in February 1991, just after the purchase of the house by Beth Israel
Medical Center, which adamantly opposed the designation. The ensuing six-month battle to
persuade the New York City Council to uphold the landmarking was among the most
contentious episodes in the history of the citys Landmarks Law. In the end the
Council narrowly overturned the designation. The politically and financially powerful
Medical Center immediately demolished the Dvorak House, which had been built in 1852, 40
years before Dvorak came to the New World and made musical history in it. Beth Israel
later erected on the site a facility for homeless AIDS patients that bears no
architectural resemblance to the composers home.
the oldest surviving houses in the Stuyvesant Square neighborhood are those at 326, 328,
and 330 East 18th Street. The first two were designed by George and Theodore
Young, and built in 1852 on land leased from Cornelia Stuyvesant then Broeck,
great-great-granddaughter of Director Stuyvesant. The third followed in 1853 with the same
high stoop, iron trellises, and deep landscaped front yard with iron fencing. These small
houses, extremely light and graceful, are a memento of Stuyvesant Square in its earliest,
pre-Civil War days, well before the later styles of the Victorian "Gilded Age."
Today, all three are official New York City landmarks.
officially designated, in 1997, is the former Stuyvesant High School, the great 1907
Beaus-Arts style building on East 15th and East 16th Streets between
First and Second Avenues, from which some of the nations best minds
and most distinguished careers were launched after graduation from this prestigious public
school. Although Stuyvesant High School now operates out of new quarters in Battery Park
City, the local structure is still owned by the Board of Education and is used for a
variety of specialized high-school and adult-education programs. The public may rent space
for various events.
of the areas unique charm and architectural distinction has been protected since
1975 by the designation of the Stuyvesant Square Historic District, which prevents
demolition, new construction, or fašade alteration unless approved by the citys
Landmarks Preservation Commission, which is currently reviewing proposals for additional
landmarking to extend the boundaries of the district. It is significant that Stuyvesant
Square Park itself was included within he 1975 designation, for it enabled the park to be
restored in the 1980s to an approximation of its mid-19th-century design,
original features of which include the two fountains and the great fence surrounding both
sections - the longest and tallest free-standing cast-iron fence in the city. The
designated historic district in its entirety, including the park, is listed in the
National and State Registers of Historic Places.
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