As Frank Kintrea noted in his article on Tuxedo Park in the August/September, 1978, issue, that once-posh enclave of the very, very rich has lately been struggling to maintain what the Tuxedo Park Association has called a “creative tension” between the exclusivity of the past and the rampant democratization that threatens it on nearly every side. However creative the tension may be, author Kintrea wrote, “there seems no place for Tuxedo Park to go socially except down.”
That may be, but Tuxedo Park nevertheless has managed to retain more than a ghostly image of its traditional privacy, as reader Julian H. Salomon of Suffern, New York, reminds us: “Should any of your readers be inspired to visit Tuxedo Park … they will find that while the fence may have come down, the ‘imposing gateway’ pictured on page 72 of the article still firmly stands and that the police who guard it will firmly bar their way. That’s because the Park is the only incorporated village in the country to which the general public may be denied free entry.”
This remarkable state of affairs, it seems, came about in 1952 when the residents of Tuxedo Park—after being governed solely by the town’s Association since 1886—decided to incorporate themselves as a village according to the laws of New York State in order to receive certain tax benefits and other appurtenances of the latter twentieth century. Ordinarily, incorporation would have meant a municipality open to anyone who cared to wander through, but when a New York Times reporter asked an Association spokesman if the action would bring any changes to the essentially private nature of the town, he replied, “None.” He was right, for in approving the incorporation, state officials also allowed the Tuxedo Park Association to retain a privately owned, fifteen-hundred-foot-wide strip of land that completely encircled the “public” town—a sort of early DMZ, or demunicipalized zone. Anyone who wants to get into Tuxedo Park, therefore, must breach a genteel barricade, perhaps the last vestige of true Privilege left in a town that once was the living definition of the term.