Gramercy Park South Unbolted

A fabled garden, a much-coveted key, the hushed overtones of wealth–Gramercy Park is the Victorian fairy-tale Manhattan can’t quite shrug. As the borough’s sole remaining private park (keys are bestowed to residents of the park’s 39 surrounding townhouses and buildings), its carefully manicured exclusivity has long exerted a mighty pull on the city’s chosen few, drawing everyone from Oscar Wilde to Humphrey Bogart.

Despite the numerous insurgencies mounted by Gramercy keyholder O. Aldon James, the bow-tied, pink-bespectacled eccentric president of the National Arts Club (most famously a civil-rights lawsuit set in motion when a park trustee called the police on 40 mostly minority students from neighboring Washington Irving High School, who Mr. James had brought in for a field trip), the forbidden Eden is unlikely to be democratized anytime soon, remaining, like many beautiful things in Manhattan, rich and mostly empty.