The name NoMad, which has been in use since 1999, is derived from the area’s location north of Madison Square Park. The neighborhood is bordered by East 23rd Street to the south, East 34th Street to the north, Madison Avenue to the west and Second Avenue to the east. The surrounding neighborhoods are Chelsea to the west, Midtown South to the northwest,Murray Hill to the northeast, Rose Hill to the east, and the Flatiron District to the south. NoMad is part of New York City’sManhattan Community Board 5.
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 arsenal and 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 1967and 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.
The area became a meeting place for the Gilded Age elite, and a late-nineteenth century mecca for shoppers, tourists and after-theater restaurant patrons. A list of celebrities who ate at Delmonico’s is a who’s who of the day, including Diamond Jim Brady, Mark Twain, Jenny Lind, Lillian Russell, Charles Dickens, Oscar Wilde, J.P. Morgan, James Gordon Bennett, Jr., Walter Scott, Edward VII of the United Kingdom (then the Prince of Wales), and Napoleon III of France.
A commercial boom followed with the growth of hotels, restaurants, entertainment venues and office buildings, many of which are still standing. By the late nineteenth century, business activity began to eclipse the residential scene around the park, and the area along Broadway above the park began to be subsumed into the Tenderloin, an entertainment-and-vice red-light district full of nightclubs, saloons, bordellos,gambling casinos, dance halls and “clip joints”. At about this time, on August 14, 1894, the world’s first kinetoscope parlor opened in a former shoe store at 1155 Broadway, on the corner of 27th Street. For 25 cents, patrons could stand and watch a short film through a shaded “peephole” on William Dickson’s device. The store had 10 of these machines, and netted $120 for its opening day.
In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century the area around 28th Street between Fifth Avenue and the Avenue of the Americas(Sixth Avenue) was dubbed Tin Pan Alley thanks to the collection of music publishers and songwriters there who dominated the American commercial music world of the time. Around the same time, the 1913 Armory Show, which took place at the 69th Regiment Armory onLexington Avenue between 25th and 26th Streets, was a seminal event in the history of Modern Art.
The neighborhood deteriorated somewhat during the mid- and late-twentieth century. Tee-shirt, luggage, perfume and jewelry wholesalers began lining the storefronts along Broadway from Madison Square to Herald Square, and wholesalers continue to dominate that stretch. By the second half of the twentieth century, Madison Square Park was suffering from neglect and petty crime. The massive 2001 park restoration project, spearheaded by the Madison Square Park Conservancy spurred a transformation of the neighborhoods around the park – the Flatiron District, Rose Hill and NoMad – from primarily commercial to places attractive for residences, upscale businesses and trendy restaurants and nightspots.