Tuesday, February 21, 2017


             From A Night Club Map of Harlem by E. Simms Campbell c. 1932

For Black History Month this year, HB will re-publish some of the archival history posts that are now half a decade old themselves. Many of the Harlem Renaissance figures are noted for their accomplishments by historians but little has been preserved uptown to mark the places they lived in or established during that remarkable decade.

Tillie Fripp was a roadhouse cook in Philly via Florida back in 1926 who quit her job and ended up being a key figure that attracted folks uptown during the Jazz Age. With only $1.98 in her pocket, the young woman was invited to a sleepy block on West 133rd Street between Lenox and 7th Avenue which only had one notable club called The Nest.  Miss Fripp ended up getting a job as a cook for a lesser known speakeasy in exchange for free rent but soon became the main attraction.  With her personal approach with customers along with great platter combinations such as ham and eggs or chicken and waffles, customer soon flocked to 133rd Street in droves late at night.

Even with being the most famous cook in Harlem, Tillie would treat all of her customers equally.  Celebrities who demanded service to their cars waiting out on the block of what became known as Jungle Alley would eventually have to wait on the sidewalk like every other customer.  Soon the talented cook and host made enough money to quit the unremarkable gin house she started in and set up a shop next door at 148 West 133rd Street and called it Tillie's Chicken Shack.

This all in turn helped other successful speakeasies to open up on the block which became a destination because of a humble cook who took a 2 week vacation to Harlem and never looked back.  Soon other branches of Tillie's would open uptown (227 Lenox in 1932 shown at top photo) and today eateries such as the Red Rooster or the forthcoming Streetbird Rotisserie have followed the same path as this remarkable woman.

Check out the full 1932 map of famous Harlem jazz spots in our past post: LINK


The shell that was gut renovated in the past couple of years at 315 West 112th Street has apparently sold the two condo units within for a notable number.  Streeteasy has the closing prices at $3.42 million and $3.05 million which probably has to do a lot with the location just around the corner from the FDB commercial corridor and also the quality of the interior along with the complete facade restoration.  Marble baths and paneling on the cabinetry makes the space modern and classic at the same time which buyers appear to really be responding to.

There is an empty lot next door which apparently can not be built on from what we have heard.  This is probably not the greatest situation but at least there are side windows in place now that will not be obstructed in the future.  More photos and details on the broker site: LINK


The MTA probably had one of the most fashionable moments in history yesterday when they confirmed that cult skate board collection Supreme had indeed teamed up with the transportation agency to issue limited edition metro cards.  Those in the know are aware that street style has crept into the high fashion world in the past couple of years and even Louis Vuitton based their latest men's collection on the Supreme logo.  Only a few station in the city will carry the newly announced metro cards and the the 125th Street 2,3 stop has been listed as one of the locations.


Wednesday, February 22nd, 6:30PM, Welcome to Fear City at Museum of the City of New York, 104th Street and Fifth Avenue.  The Museum of the City of New York will be screening several short documentaries on the gritty city of 70s this week but one of the short films is actually about how Hamilton Heights held up in that tough decade.  More details and ticket purchase on the official museum site: LINK

A Sense of Pride: Hamilton Heights, Monica J. Freeman, 1977, 15 minutes
Monica J. Freeman's serene portrait of Hamilton Heights at the peak of its brownstone revival is a testament to the cohesion and spirit of an African-American middle class fighting hard for its place in a depressed city, and, in the process, returning a grand old neighborhood to its rightful splendor.


Harlem Bespoke also has a Twitter account with over 6,140 followers for those who want daily updates about stuff that's happening in the neighborhood. If you Twitter, check out our Harlem tweets and join here: LINK