05/30/2013 11:09 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Secret NYC I: Edwin Booth & The Player's Club

Jill Lynne

Admittedly I am an avid eavesdropper. Ever-curious, I am prone to strain, listening to tidbits of conversations. This has served yours truly well -- from hippy-chic adventures in Big Sur (but that's another story) through a recent night at NYC's historical 1888, Gramercy Park Player's Club.

On that eve, I attended the staged reading of a new fictional play by Fulbright award- winning playwright, Rosary Hartel O'Neill -- Plane Love. The Play, directed by Melissa Attebery, starring Shana Farr and David Copeland, is an amusing romp of a romance staged through emails.

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The Greek Revival Player's Club was founded by Actor Edwin Booth, America's pre-eminent Shakespearean actor of the time (unfortunately better remembered as the brother of Abraham Lincoln's infamous assassin -- John Wilkes Booth), along with fifteen additional incorporators -- including the likes of Mark Twain.

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Modeled after London's famed theatrical Garrick Club, Player's was the first American club to for "The promotion of social intercourse between members of the dramatic profession and the kindred professions of literature, painting, architecture, sculpture, music, law and medicine..."

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As we were exiting the Club, I heard one gentleman whispering to another. The subject: The little-known apartment of Edwin Booth atop Player's.

Intrigued, I inquired if perhaps we might possibly have a peek.
"Only open to accompanied members" was the retort.
Well, perhaps we charmed our way in...

After a slow ride in a tiny elevator named for French tragedienne Sarah Bernhardt -- whom it is said got stuck during its unveiling in 1911 -- we arrived.

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Left almost intact -- there it all was -- an elegant -- though decaying -- theatrical artist's garret. The great Edwin Booth's actual small bed laden with a disintegrating coverlet, his tiny velvet slippers, the family bible, family photographs...

Indeed, one could almost hear the light footsteps of the great Edwin Booth, and hear the whispers of him rehearsing his scripts.

Photographs © Jill Lynne

1. Fulbright-Award winning Playwright Rosary Hartell O'Neill with Dorector Plane Love, Melissa Ateberry

2. Actor Edwin Booth's Bed with actual Tattered Bedspread in his Secret Apartment atop The Player's Club, NYC

3. Booth's Tiny Slippers peek out from beneath the Bed

4. Edwin Booth's Death Mask

5. Portrait of Edwin Booth with Silver Acting Award

6. Fireside Writing Desk/Dining Table with Family Photographs