The first to appreciate the advantages which the Park offered as a place of residence was Peter Cooper, who purchased the lots at the corner of Lexington Avenue and 22nd Street, and completed the building of No. 9 Lexington Avenue in 1848, and here he lived until his death in 1883. The house was constructed on piles over a small stream, which was doubtless the historic “Cromessie” brook, and is supported on two central walls. The lintels are of cast iron, probably the first ones made, and were cast in Mr. Cooper’s iron foundry. Originally the house had a high stoop but this was removed in 1884 and the present basement entrance, the first alteration of the kind, was constructed by Mrs. Abram S. Hewitt with the help of Stanford White, then a rising young architect. Mr. Cooper had his private entrance to his stable on 22nd Street, and until he was an old man, in-variably drove to business in his one horse shay, which is still preserved in Cooper Union. On Sundays he habitually walked to All Souls Church to hear the Rev. Dr. Bellows preach, and his granddaughter, who often accompanied him, recalls that in these walks they always found an old Irish woman in a poke bonnet and a plaid shawl, seated on the steps of 17 Gramercy Park, to whom Mr. Cooper invariably gave one of the numerous ten cent pieces with which he always provided himself for such appeals.
Mr. Cooper was certainly one of the most picturesque figures associated with the Park, and it is pleasant to recall the fact that the Trustees presented him with a key and to imagine his satisfaction in witnessing the be-ginning of its growth and, as saplings became trees, to picture his venerable figure seated under their shade. His career is a remarkable story of unaided ability coupled with persistence and inventive genius. His industry was indefatigable and his inventions covered the most extraordinary range, from a contrivance to “rock the cradle,” which also kept off the flies and played a music box to amuse the baby, to a torpedo boat, which he de-signed in 1824 to blow up the Turks for their inhuman cruelties to the Greeks in their struggle for freedom. He also invented the first lawn-mower, a tide-water wheel, an endless chain three miles in length to convey coal from his mines to his furnaces, and finally a loco-motive, the first which was operated on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, which could draw a train of cars around short curves and over rough country. The development of the manufacture of iron was his special interest and he established extensive works at Trenton and also at Ringwood. In 1854 he became the president of the North American Telegraph Company, when it controlled more than half of all the lines then in this country; and also the president of the New York, New Foundland and London Telegraph Company, thus becoming identified with one of the greatest triumphs of American enterprise, and the accomplishment of a result vital to modern civilization and epoch making in the history of the world, the laying of the Atlantic cable.