About Stuyvesant Fish
Stuyvesant Fish (June 24, 1851 - April 10, 1923) was president of the Illinois Central Railroad.
Fish was born in New York City, the son of Hamilton Fish and his wife Julia Ursin Niemcewicz, née Kean. A graduate of Columbia College, he was later an executive of the Illinois Central Railroad, and as its president from 1887 to 1906 oversaw its period of greatest expansion. In 1906, he was removed from his position by E. H. Harriman, probably because of Fish's cooperation and participation with the state government in investigating the Mutual Life Insurance Company. Stuyvesant Fish also served on the board of directors of the National Park Bank.
He married Marion Graves Anthon on 1 June 1896. Marion, known as "Mamie", was a leader in New York and Newport society. When in Newport she lived in a grand Colonial Revival house named "Crossways", where her Harvest Festival Ball in August signaled the end of the Newport social season.
When Grand Duke Boris of Russia visited Newport, Mrs. Fish issued invitations for a dinner and ball in his honor; the night of the ball the Duke was detained by Mrs. Ogden Goelet, Mrs. Fish's rival as social leader, at whose home he was staying. About 200 guests had assembled in the hall at Crossways, and when the hour for dinner approached and there was no sign of the Duke, Mrs. Fish announced that the Duke was unable to come, but the Czar of Russia had agreed to be her guest. Suddenly the doors of the room were flung open and in walked His Imperial Majesty, dressed in his royal robes, wearing the Imperial Crown and carrying a scepter. The guests, including Senator Chauncey Depew, Pierpont Morgan, and Lord Charles Beresford, sank in a court curtsy, only to recover themselves with shrieks of laughter when they realized they were paying homage to Harry Lehr.
Stuyvesant Fish was a vestryman at Trinity Church, New York. He and his wife maintained his grandmother's Federal-style house at 21 Stuyvesant Street, but after 1898 their New York house was a brick and limestone Italianate structure at 25 East 78th Street at Madison Avenue. The house, which was designed by Stanford White, is still standing.
19 Gramercy Park
At the corner of Gramercy Park South (East 20th Street) and Irving Place stood a small four-story row house built in 1845 by William Samuel Johnson, a Whig politician, which had the address 86 Irving Place. Johnson sold the property to Horace Brooks, who added a fifth story and constructed a stable on the unused southern part of the property. The census of 1880 shows a number of different people living at the address, suggesting that it had been converted into apartments by that time.
In 1887, this modest property was expanded and altered by noted architect Stanford White at the cost of $130,000 into a mansion with an interior marble staircase and a ballroom on the top floor where Mamie Fish gave elaborate parties for New York society. The building was also re-numbered to be 19 Gramercy Park, an address which had not existed prior to that time.
The Fish family left for their new 78th Street home in 1898, and the building was broken up into small apartments; actor John Barrymore was a resident while he was in New York working on Broadway. Occupants at other times included playwright Edward Sheldon and William C. Bullitt, the diplomat, journalist and novelist. In 1909, a six-story apartment building was constructed on the southern part of the lot.
The building was rescued from decay in 1931 by noted publicist Benjamin Sonnenberg when he and his wife rented the first two floors, gradually expanding and taking over other apartments. In 1945, Sonneberg bought the entire building from Fish's son, Stuyvesant Fish Jr., for $85,000, and combined it with the apartment building to the south to create a massive residence which noted architecture critic Brendan Gill called "the greatest private house remaining in private hands in New York." The mansion was extensively furnished with Sonnenberg's collection of English and Irish furniture, drawings by Old Masters and sculptures. Like the Fishes, Sonnenberg gave notable parties which brought old-money New York together with show business luminaries.
Sonnenberg died in 1978, and the house was auctioned to Baron Walter Langer von Langendorff, the owner of Evyan Perfumes, although Dr. Henry Jarecki also bid on it. Von Langendorff sold it to fashion designer Richard Tyler and his wife, Lisa Trafficante, in 1995 for $3.5 million. After sprucing up the property, it was put on the market in January 2000 and sold to Jarecki in December 2000 for $16.5 million. Jarecki, a psychologist and entrepreneur was reported to plan to use the mansion as both a home and the headquarters for his family foundation.
The mansion in its current incarnation has 37 rooms, 18,000 square feet (1,700 m2) of space, a separate caretaker's apartment, numerous bedrooms, bathrooms, guest suites, and sitting rooms, a drawing room, a library, two kitchens, a wine cellar and the ballroom on the top floor, which had been renovated by Tyler.