GRP002-3.jpg (57152 bytes) New York Architecture Images-Gramercy Park

Stuyvesant Fish House




19 Gramercy Park at Irving Place.






Mansard added 1860.




  Tyler sells home-runway 

Fashion designer Richard Tyler just sold his plus-size mansion at 19 Gramercy Park South for almost $17 million. Built by a prominent Whig politician in 1845, it was owned by the Stuyvesant Fish family and, later, the legendary flack Ben Sonnenberg, who combined it with the six-story apartment building next door. Tyler and his wife, Lisa Trafficante, bought it in 1995 for $3.5 million and renovated it, turning the ballroom into a white space he used for shows. They put it on the market for $18 million in February with Douglas Elliman broker Leslie Mason. They were in contract to buy a $7.75 million house at 727 Washington Street with a retractable roof and a glass-bottomed reflecting pool that allows light into a loft space that Tyler could use for shows. "I'm still hoping he's buying it," says its broker, Corcoran's Wendy Sarasohn. 


19 Gramercy Park South has just come on the market for $18 million, and Leslie Mason, townhouse specialist at Douglas Elliman, has been appointed the exclusive broker. Owned by designer Richard Tyler and his wife, Lisa Trafficante, this 37-room, 18,000 square-foot mansion is located on the southeast corner of 20th Street and Irving Place, directly overlooking Gramercy Park.

According to Mason, "19 Gramercy Park South is one of the finest houses remaining in private hands today. The owners have restored and maintained the house beautifully." The home was designed for gracious entertaining by Stanford White for Mrs. Stuyvesant Fish in the 1880's. Subsequently, it was purchased by Benjamin Sonnenberg to house his extensive art and furniture collection.

The corner property boasts a magnificent staircase; William & Mary drawing room; library; several sitting rooms, studios and reception rooms; two kitchens; six bedroom suites; and 13 fireplaces. It is topped with a penthouse ballroom with dramatic park views. Other extraordinary features include museum quality paneling and exceptional mantles, moldings and hardware throughout. In addition, the house is centrally air-conditioned.

"Gramercy Park has always been a choice area, and to have a house directly on New York's only private park also adds to the property's value and appeal," Mason said. "People always stop to admire the house. Whoever purchases this home will be investing in a part of New York history."



Ben Sonnenberg chronicles for us his coming-of-age at 19 Gramercy Park, once described by The New Yorker as "the greatest private hands in New York." In a voice that is both candid and cultivated, he reflects upon his political, sexual, and aesthetic education as the son of one of America's most powerful men, the inventor of public relations, Benjamin Sonnenberg, Sr. Sonnenberg takes the reader along on his flight into anarchy and sabotage -- a life of sex and espionage spent in Cold War Europe and 1960s New York. At the same time, he spins a tale of universal human struggles: of family, marriage, divorce, sickness, and debt. A savage comedy, Lost Property is deepened by its reflections upon class, culture, and illness.

It would be too obvious to say it was kismet that we had both chosen Grand Street—Ben Sonnenberg for his legendary literary journal, we for the first issue of our future legendary literary journal. Yet Amy and I couldn’t ignore the connection or the chance to meet the man behind New York’s premier literary magazine. In 1981, disco beats were dying, punk rock shouts were getting louder, and Ben Sonnenberg put out the first Grand Street issue featuring works by Ted Hughes, Alice Munro and P.J. Kavanaugh to name a few.

I had spoken to Mr. Sonnenberg (he hates being called Ben by strangers) on the phone after exchanging an email or two. We wanted to talk to an expert, and he agreed meet us to discuss starting our journal. Sonnenberg greeted us in the foyer of his exquisite Riverside Drive apartment and introduced us to his dog—a cute, high-pitched, black fur ball of energy named Lucy. We followed his eletrolux wheelchair into a sun-filled sitting room decorated with books, beautiful tchotchkes and paintings. (Were those original Ben Shahn or Edward Hopper paintings? we wondered in the elevator down.) Diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in the ‘70s, Sonnenberg’s condition worsened over the years, first making him a paraplegic and then, in the ‘90s, a quadriplegic.

We sat down, ready to fire away questions. But, the first question came from his lips. Why had we chosen Grand Street as the first street to launch our journal? After fumbling about sense of place and people and the reciprocal relationship that shapes them both, our final answer came down to diversity. This, he told us, was the same reason he christened his journal Grand Street.

That wasn’t the answer I expected. It's been said, by Sonnenberg himself, in his memoir “Lost Property” that he chose the name Grand Street because that is where his parents met. It turns out, that’s true too. His parents grew up on the eastern part of Grand, then an enclave of Jewish immigrants. Sonnenberg’s father, known as the man who made the field of public relations what it is today, moved with his wife and their daughter to “a very grand private house” at 19 Gramercy Park before Ben was born. Though Sonnenberg grew up privileged, he took regular walks with his father down Grand Street, listening to stories of who came from where, learning that his maternal grandfather Simon Caplan had been known as the unofficial mayor of Grand Street, and hearing the story of how his parents met at a dance at the Henry Street settlement.

As his memoir suggests, Sonnenberg’s real connection to Grand Street other than his father/son walks and talks, didn’t come until the ‘70s. As a young man, he spent money frivolously, got kicked out of prep schools, slept with women he shouldn’t have, moved to Spain and worked briefly with the CIA. After all that, Sonnenberg eventually made it back to Grand Street—not in search of lost roots, but because it was where artists lived.