NoMad’s early history is closely aligned with that of Madison Square Park, which has been a public space since 1686. The park extends from Fifth Avenue to Madison Avenue between 23rd and 26th Streets. Formerly a military parade ground that to this day serves as the starting point for the city’s annual Veterans Day Parade, Madison Square Park and the surrounding area have undergone a number of changes since pre-Revolutionary War days, serving at various times as a potter’s field, an army arsenaland a facility for juvenile delinquents.
New Yorkers began establishing residences around the park in the mid-nineteenth century. Private brownstone dwellings and mansions springing up around the perimeter of the park soon boasted such respected, well-to-do families as the Haights, Stokeses, Scheifflins, Wolfes, and Barlows. Leonard and Clara Jerome, the grandparents of Winston Churchill, lived at 41 East 26th Street. The Jerome Mansion later became the clubhouse of the Union League Club of New York (its second location), the University Club and, finally, the Manhattan Club, birthplace of the Manhattan cocktail and congregating place of such famous Democrats as Franklin D. Roosevelt, Grover Cleveland and Al Smith. The mansion was demolished in 1967 and was replaced in 1974 by the New York Merchandise Mart, which also extends onto the site of the adjacent Madison Square Hotel, where actors Henry Fonda and James Stewart roomed in the 1930s.
The famous families in the area nurtured the spiritual life of the neighborhood, founding such landmark houses of worship as the Church of the Transfiguration (the “Little Church Around the Corner”), Trinity Chapel (site of the wedding between writer Edith Newbold Jones and Edward Wharton and now the home of the Serbian Orthodox Cathedral of Saint Sava) and Marble Collegiate Church.
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