Stuyvesant Fish

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Stuyvesant Fish
Personal details
Born (1851-06-24)June 24, 1851
New York City
Died April 10, 1923(1923-04-10) (aged 71)
Nationality United States
Spouse(s) Marion "Mamie" Graves Anthon
Relations Hamilton Fish (father)
Julia Ursin Niemcewicz, née Kean (mother)
Occupation president of the Illinois Central Railroad

Stuyvesant Fish (June 24, 1851 - April 10, 1923) was a noteworthy grandee of the United States' Gilded Age, having made his money as president of the Illinois Central Railroad. He kept grand residences in New York City and Newport, Rhode Island, entertained lavishly, and, along with his wife "Mamie", served as leaders of society.


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 1876.[1] 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.[2]

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.[3] 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.[4]

Stuyvesant Fish was a vestryman at Trinity Church, New York and a member of the Republican Party. He held no great interest in the doings of high society, and bore great patience with his wife's peculiar parties.[5] 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[edit]

Northern portion of 19 Gramercy Park (2010)

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.[6][7] Johnson sold the property to Horace Brooks, who added a fifth story and constructed a stable on the unused southern part of the property.[7] 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.[8]

In 1887, this modest property was expanded and altered by noted architect Stanford White[9] at the cost of $130,000[7] 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.[10] The building was also re-numbered to be 19 Gramercy Park, an address which had not existed prior to that time.[7]

The Fish family left for their new 78th Street home in 1898, and the building was broken up into small apartments;[10] actor John Barrymore was a resident while he was in New York working on Broadway.[11] Occupants at other times included playwright Edward Sheldon and William C. Bullitt, the diplomat, journalist and novelist.[12] In 1909, a six-story apartment building was constructed on the southern part of the lot.[8]

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, Sonnenberg 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."[8] The mansion was extensively furnished with Sonnenberg's collection of English and Irish furniture, drawings by Old Masters and sculptures.[7][10] Like the Fishes, Sonnenberg gave notable parties which brought old-money New York together with show business luminaries.[10] The building was listed as a contributing property to the Gramercy Park Historic District in 1966.[6]

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.[7][10] 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.[7] Jarecki, a psychologist and entrepreneur was reported to plan to use the mansion as both a home and the headquarters for his family foundation.[7]

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.[7]

19 Gramercy Park plays a central role in the 1970 illustrated novel Time and Again by American author Jack Finney. The main character, an advertising artist, travels back in time from 1970s New York City to January 1882, and rents a room at 19 Gramercy Park, which is a boarding house in the novel. It is described as "a plain three-story brownstone with white-painted window frames and a short flight of scrubbed stone steps with a black wrought-iron railing."

See also[edit]


  1. ^ They had four children, Livingston Fish, Sidney Webster Fish, Stuyvesant Fish II, and Marion Anthon Fish, who married Albert Zabriskie Gray.
  2. ^ Mrs. Stuyvesant Fish, nee Marion Anthon, a.k.a. Mamie, New York Social Diary. 2013. Accessed on July 28, 2014 at
  3. ^ "Many women will rise up to fill my place, but I hope my influence will be felt in one thing, and that is, in discountenancing the undignified methods employed by certain women to attract a following." (Caroline Schermerhorn Astor).
  4. ^ Rhode Island: a Guide to the Smallest State, 1937. The anecdote is derived from Lady Decies, King Lehr and the Gilded Age. With Extracts from the Locked Diaries of Harry Lehr. (Philadelphia: Lippincott) 1935
  5. ^ Gavan, Terrence. 'The Barons of Newport: A Guide to the Gilded Age'. Newport: Pineapple Publications, 1998. ISBN 0-929249-06-2
  6. ^ a b "Gramercy Park Historic District" at the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i Schoeneman, Deborah and Netburn, Deborah. "After Pining for It, Investor Jarecki Gets 19 Gramercy Park" New York Observer (December 24, 2000)
  8. ^ a b c Gray, Christopher "Streetscapes/19 Gramercy Park South; An 1880's House That Asks, 'What's In a Name?'" New York Times (February 20, 2000)
  9. ^ For the possibility that Sidney V. Stratton was the architect and not White, see Gray, Christopher "Streetscapes/19 Gramercy Park South; An 1880's House That Asks, 'What's In a Name?'" New York Times (February 20, 2000)
  10. ^ a b c d e Mendelsohn, Joyce. Touring the Flatiron. New York: New York Landmarks Conservancy, 1998. ISBN 0-964-7061-2-1 pp.48-49
  11. ^ White, Norval & Willensky, Elliot (2000). AIA Guide to New York City (4th ed.). New York: Three Rivers Press. ISBN 978-0-8129-3107-5. 
  12. ^ Federal Writers' Project. (1939) New York City Guide. New York: Random House. ISBN 0-403-02921-X (Reprinted by Scholarly Press, 1976; often referred to as WPA Guide to New York City), p.196
Further reading

External links[edit]

Preceded by
President of Illinois Central Railroad
Succeeded by
James T. Hanrahan