When he lived at 55 Irving Place, O. Henry believed, like so many others, that Washington Irving once resided down the street. Irving was more of a downtown guy, and he probably never lived along in here, but that didn't stop a 19th-century real estate man, the same guy who developed Gramercy Park to the north and gave this area its new Irving name, from making the whole thing up. The rumor was that Irving lived specifically at 49 Irving Place, a corner house occupied during O. Henry's time by Elsie de Wolfe, the first important professional interior designer, and her companion, Elisabeth Marbury. Elsie was known for her salons, and so having people over all the time to talk about ideas is a good place to spread rumors.
It's nice, however, that there's this connection between O. Henry and Washington Irving. These two writers, along with Clement Clarke Moore, helped shaped the way Christmas is understood in the popular American imagination.
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Never mind them right now, because Irving Place is well worth exploring today. In its totality, it may come off as more shabby genteel than Gramercy Park to the north, but it's perfect for writers looking for a haunt. On my walk I happened into the warm coziness of 71 Irving Place Coffee and Tea Bar, and I felt right at home surrounded by the customers crowded around the small café tables with their books and laptops. Overall, Irving Place is an excellent destination for dining, with varied choices along the block. Out-of-towners with Edith Wharton-type money and looking for a place to stay in this charming section of the city may want look at Inn at Irving Place. It's genteel, but I wouldn't call it shabby at all.
By all means, in the spirit of O. Henry, raise a toast at Pete's Tavern.
We've now reached the end of this special Christmas-themed walk, one that began in Chelsea at Clement Clarke Moore Park, proceeded along 16th Street from west to east and ended here on Irving Place. Perhaps on a pleasant snowy December day, we may pass one another there.
Cheers! Happy holidays!