Thursday, April 8, 2010

Harlem NY Architectural Highlights Walk

Easter Sunday in New York this year was magnificent. Bright, sunny, 70-plus degrees. What better way to clock our 10,000 steps on such a glorious day than to join a favorite AMC leader on an architectural walk through NYC's historic Harlem? With a little help from the map above, you can meander through even more points of interest highlighted in the two links just above the next photo of Columbia U.
Bibliography at end of post.

As Nieu Haarlem, a Dutch settlement in the 1600s, it was mainly farmland. By the end of the 1800s when the elevated railroad and then the subway system was extended up there, many rows of desirable city houses and apartment houses were developed. The cultural high time, called The Harlem Renaissance, was from 1919 to 1929 when music, visual arts, literature and drama were budding and blooming and Harlem was a mecca for black artists. These golden years were ended by the Great Depression.

During our five-mile walk, we saw gingerbread/Moorish porches, elegant townhouses, Southern-style rowhouses, a gorgeous tiled archway, the site of the reclusive/eccentric Collyer Brothers home, flame-colored Doctors' Row, astonishing polychrome churches, "Strivers Row," and last but not least, row upon row of breathtaking brownstones, many of them artfully restored.

Harlem - Mount Morris highlights really delight!! Lots of what we muddled or missed, you'll find at this site.

And just one more site for an interactive map and virtual tour, plus a text you can print before you go out the door!

Our walk began at the 116th and Broadway Number 1 Train subway stop. Arriving with a few minutes to spare, we bolted south a few blocks to get a Starbucks iced coffee. Who would believe our simple pours would be queued by the barista behind the dozens of lattes and mochachinos ordered by the 3 people ahead of us? Committed, we had to wait for the grail. Finally, now 10 minutes late but icy prize in hand, we ran to catch the group as it headed East, through Columbia University grounds. Students were out enjoying the sunshine on the lawn in front of renowned Low Memorial Library. This neo-Classical structure, built in 1895, actually is no longer a library. It now houses Columbia's administrative headquarters.

The 116th Street and Morningside Park overlook. Carl Schurz presides. "My country right or wrong, ..." We took the bluestone steps down into the park.

Morningside Park was all dressed up in its Easter best. Cherry and Magnolia trees were in full bloom, as they are throughout New York. The park is one of the last reminders of the original open farmland in this area.

Modern reality hits on the other side of the park. As the recent real estate boom in Manhattan got out of hand, Harlem, long a working-class baliwick, became attractive to developers. New condos, still less expensive than downtown, sprouted up all over.

Gorgeous brownstones, like this row on West 118th Street, have been refurbished.

Here's one of Harlem's Grand Dames--Graham Court at 116th and Adam Clayton Powell Blvd. It wouldn't be out of place on the Upper West side, where luxe apartment buildings like the Dakota and San Remo reign supreme. In fact, the legendary Apthorp, at Broadway and 79th Street, was modeled after Graham Court. Built in 1898, this beauty boasts a massive central court and walkways that provide lots of light and space.

The tiled archway is the handiwork of Spanish architect and builder Raphael Guastavino. His patented archways also show up at New York's Grand Central Station and City Hall, among other places.

Another example of newly built Harlem houses on West 118th Street. Doesn't this style fit the neighborhood ambience better than the "block of flats" a few shots above?

This one-time Synagogue, at 20 West 118th Street, is now a church. It shows its Moorish influence, not uncommon in Synagogues of the time, in its Arabesque filigree and horseshoe arches.

Brownstones march across West 120th Street..... Number 3 West 120th Street was the boyhood home of American song writer, Richard Rogers, of Rogers and Hammerstein fame.

This building on 122nd street looks quite ordinary.....
...until you walk a few steps east and glance up ..... Wow!

Further along, foundlings in clay mark Hale House, at 152 West 122nd Street. Established in 1969, Hale House is dedicated to helping needy families and children.

Much of the north side of West 122nd Street is known as Doctor's Row, so named for all the doctors who moved up to the Queen Anne style houses toward the end of the 19th century when the elevated railroad brought Harlem into commutable reach of the city center. Today, these different-colored pediments assure that you won't get lost on your way home....

Numbers 133 to 143 were disigned by architect Francis H. Kimball. In less capable hands, the flame-colored brick of the upper stories might have been a disaster.

Also across the street is a row designed by Thom and Wilson, exhibiting a rich display of architectural detail, including heavily carved door and whimsical masonry featuring fruits, birds, sea creatures and winged griffins.

Hans Christian Anderson Complex is a public school at 134 West 122 Street.

Another little bit of the old Harlem still holds on amongst all the architectural rebirth. Hmm...wonder if a Baby Ruth bar is still only a nickle here.

Chimney pots tell us that this fine building boasts fireplaces--a desirable feature, if still operative, found mostly in pre-War New York apartments.

The entrance to Marcus Garvey/Mount Morris Park on 123rd Street.

As we headed uptown, this street marker caught our eye....

Langston Hughes, born in 1902 and one of America's premier poets, lived here on West 129th Street on the top floor.

Across the street is this house, transformed into a memorial to heroes of the Civil Rights Movement.

We thought this bit of whimsical architecture interesting.

This 1863 clapboard house graces West 128th Street at Number 17. It was occupied for many years by Caroline Adams, a dancer and choreographer with the Paul Taylor Dance Company. We saw it listed for sale on Streeteasy with phots of the gorgeous interior for $2,350,000. Sorry, it said no longer available.

All that remains of the infamous Collyer Brothers home, at 128th and Fifth avenue, is this pocket park. If the name doesn't ring a bell, the antics of these two compulsive hoarders are certainly worth looking into. Their bodies were found amidst mountains of stuff--roughly 100 tons of it--that they had hoarded over their lifetimes. But their story is infinitely more fascinating than that..... The last 6 photos on this police blotter shows the inside of the house when the police went in.

A Gingerbread/Moorish house, at 129th street, just off Madison, seems to appear out of nowhere. It was built in 1865, the metal detail hand cut with a scroll saw.

The Harlem Rose Garden, just 0.16 of an acre, at 4-6 West 129th Street. One of New York's many surprises is the frequency of these green oases, founded by NYC Dept of Parks and maintained by local volunteers.

All Saints Catholic Church, at 129th and Madison, is sometimes called "The Saint Patrick's of Harlem." This landmarked, "Rococco" Venetian Gothic structure with a richly vaulted interior, built as a parish for the neighborhood's Irish immigrants and completed in 1894, was designed by James Renwick, the architect responsible for St. Patrick's Cathedral. The Stars of David are an interesting touch--according to our guide, one of the project's financiers was Jewish.

Astor Row: Porched houses with front yards like these on the south side of West 130th Street, are a rarity in Manhattan. These landmarked homes, 28 brick houses attached in pairs, were built in 1880-3 on land owned by William Astor. Restoration was supported in 1992 by Brooke Astor, President of the Vincent Astor Foundation.

These houses await restoration.

A look across the street offer a contrast in scale from the "suburban-ish" porched homes.

Some of the uninhabited houses down the block are in need a lot of work. The symbols are for the fire department: diagonal line in the square = half a floor out; a full X in a square = no floor; "RO" = Roof Out.

St. Aloysius Catholic Church on 132nd Street, a design by William W. Renwick, nephew of noted James Renwick. Based on an Italian Gothic prototype, it's an example of a stunning polychrome building with terra cotta accents.

The Gothic towers of City College of New York's main campus at Hamilton Heights peek out over this part of Harlem.

Striver's Row on West 138th and 139th Streets, features Italian Renaissance and neo-Georgian buildings. It was developed in the 1890s by African-American architect, David King, Jr. He hired several designers to get varied, yet harmonious styles. The designers were James Brown Lord, Bruce Price, Clarence Luce, and the firm of McKim, Mead and White. The sign on the post says "Please walk horses."

The opposite side of 138th Street. King wanted to develop continuous blocks for the well-to-do, attracting professionals in medicine, dentistry, law and the fine arts (among them, W.C. Handy and Eubie Blake.)

Behind the Strivers Row houses were stables, where these Harlemites kept their horses.

139 th Street. The north side of Strivers Row, designed by McKim, Mead and White. The medallions on the facades are a feature of the Italian Renaissance style.

The Abyssinian Baptist Church, at 132-142 West 138th Street, was built in 1923 and played a major role in black history. This cavernous, Gothic and Tudor building served as the home base for the Reverends Adam Clayton Powell Sr. and Jr. It has a world-famous gospel choir and a weekly congregation numbering in the thousands.

What walk through Harlem would be complete without a stop at Miss Maude's Spoonbread Too? Neither of the Tramps stopped in for a bite, but we hear the fried chicken, candied yams and hot corn bread can't be beat!

Last stop on our walk--the renowned Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, at 515 Malcolm X Blvd. In operation for 80 years, this center is one of the leading institutions of its kind in the world.

Just in front of the Center was the subway station for the 3 train, our ticket back to Broadway and West 65th, just perfect for our connection back to the east side on the M66 bus. When we checked the old pedometers, they read 6 miles. Not bad for a 3 hour stroll, moseying in and about interesting
posts and lintels.

 Harlem: Lost and Found

 Forever Harlem: Celebrating America's Most Diverse Community

 Sylvia's Family Soul Food Cookbook: From Hemingway, South Carolina

Strivers Row (New York Trilogy 3)

 Harlem: The Four Hundred Year History from Dutch Village ...

 The Harlem Reader: A Celebration of New York's...

 When Harlem Was in Vogue

 Harlem Renaissance

 East Harlem (NY) (Images of America)

 Jazz Portrait - Harlem, New York, 1958 Art Poster Print by Art Kane, 35x24

 Manhattanville: Old Heart of West Harlem (NY) (Images of America)

 Harlem on My Mind: Cultural Capital of Black America, 1900-1968

 Spanish Harlem's Musical Legacy: 1930-1980 (NY) (Images of America)

 Bruce Davidson: East 100th Street


Next up is a return trip along the Old Croton Aqueduct to the Croton Dam and Teatown. It's our first trip back into the woods since one of us had an unfortunate accident last May. Hope you'll join us.