06 December 2007

Something Fishy



This solemn looking building with the mansard roof was once the center of high society in New York. Situated at the southeast corner of Gramery Park South and Irving Place, No. 19 was the home of Mary "Mamie" Fish, who succeeded Mrs. William Astor as the head of the "400" families in the last 19th century.

Mamie, wife of Stuyvesant Fish, was a revolutionary in her way. Tired of sitting through dinners that lasted several hours, she cut hers down to a brief 50 minutes. Soon, everyone did the same. She called people by their first names, which was not done at that time. She hated opera; once, when asked what her favorite instrument was, she replied, "The comb."

One time, she sent out invitations to a dinner honoring a mysterious prince. The honored guest turned out to be a monkey dressed in white tie and tails, which I'm sure handed her (but not many others) a great laugh. I think I would have liked Mamie's parties.

As liberal as Mrs. Fish was, I think she might have been shocked to find out that, after her family vacated this address, dissolute actor John Barrymore live here for a time.

4 comments:

Carol Gardens said...

It's had other interesting owners since then. Bemjamin Sonnenberg, the "father of public relations." The designer Richard Tyler owned it for a while. Then Movie Fone millionaire Henry Jarecki (his son made the documentary CAPTURING THE FRIEDMANS).

http://www.observer.com/2000/after-pining-it-investor-jarecki-gets-19-gramercy-park

Xris (Flatbush Gardener) said...

My partner used to work for the Community Board covering the East Village and Lower East Side. He would periodically get phone calls regarding Hamilton Fish Park, inquiring, "What's a fish park?"

Was Hamilton Fish any relation?

Carol Gardens said...

Oh yeah, a guy named Preserved Fish is buried in the New York City Marble Cemetery on East Second Steet. This cemetery is occasionally open to the public and it is worth a visit.

Xris (Flatbush Gardener) said...

That cemetery was our "backyard" when I lived on East 3rd Street.