New York City – Gramercy Park 1831-1919

GRAMERCY Park can hardly boast antiquity as one of its charms, but it is interesting to know that its name dates back to the days of Dutch occupation, when the “little crooked knife” brook which meandered from Madison Square to the East River near 18th Street acquired the designation of “Crommessie,” which has been modernized into “Gramercy.” The name, which is variously spelled Krom Messie, Crummashie and Crommesshie, certainly can claim a respectable age, for it appears in a deed made in 1674 by Judith Stuyvesant, the widow of Governor Peter Stuyvesant, which refers to “a parcel of land lying beyond the fresh water (Collect Pond) nigh the Bowery beyond the neighborhood of Crommessie,” and occurs in the Minutes of the Common Council of September 16, 1692, when it was “Ordered, that Alderman Kipp and Alderman John Merritt, Capt. Tennis de Key and Mr. Gerritt Douw do view the high-ways from the fresh water unto Crummashie hill.”

On a map of old farms prepared for Valentine’s Manual in 1853 by Cornelius De Witt, the farm which included what is now Gramercy Park is designated as “Krom Messie,” and the recurrence of the name “Crommesshie” in the Council Minutes of January 19, 1710-11, and in a deed to Cornelius Tiebout, dated September 20, 1748, shows that the name was in common usage in 1761, when James Duane acquired the farm by deed from Gerardus Stuyvesant, a grandson of the Governor, and named it “Gramercy Seat.” In the Manual of 1856, Mr. Valentine says that “Crummashie Hill was an eminence near Governor Stuyvesant’s Farm,” adding the explanation that “Mr. DeWitt in his compilation of the old farms of New York has written the name Krom Messie and given a derivation of that name to the shape of the farm upon which it was situated, as being that of a shoe-maker’s knife.” That the name “Crommessie” was a combination of the Dutch words “Krom,” meaning “crooked,” and “mesje,” meaning “little knife,” seems probable; and the supposition that “Gramercy” is an Anglicized version of the original name is the most plausible explanation of its origin which has been offered, but it seems much more likely that as a local name it was suggested by the crooked turns of a brook rather than by the boundaries of a farm.