Stuyvesant Park Neighborhood Association

Stuyvesant Park
Neighborhood Association, Inc.

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     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 Fish’s house. A later politician, Charles Murphy, last of the prominent Tammany bosses, lived on East 17th Street in the 1920s.
     At 327 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.
     The long 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 city’s 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 composer’s home.
     Probably 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.
     Also 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 nation’s 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.
     The core of the area’s 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 city’s 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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nyscalogo.jpg (10600 bytes) Stuyvesant Park
Neighborhood Associations, Inc.
P.O. Box 1320
Cooper Station
New York, New York 10276