Monday, November 30, 2009

☞ REMEMBER: 71 Convent Avenue

We wondered if the above building still existed after we found this old photo depicting the corner of Convent Avenue and West 131st Street circa 1942. The handsome structure with its dormer windows and arched portico is today's P.S. 223, which hosts the Mott Hall School for gifted students. The building is quite grand and frames the view of 131st Street as one heads eastward from the fringes of Manhattanville. The closest subway is the 1 train at 125th Street. Walk one avenue over towards Amsterdam and head up north for next few blocks. This is basically the southern fringe of the City College campus. Top photo courtesy of NYPL. Lower photo by Ulysses

☞ WALK: Morningside's Lafayette Square

At the intersection of Morningside Avenue and Manhattan Avenue, at West 113th Street, one will find a patriotic tribute to our first president in a quiet triangular park called Lafayette Square. Dedicated on April, 19th, 1900, the bronze George Washington shakes the hands of the French military leader who came to the aid of the colonists during the Revolution, the Marquis de Lafayette, with the American flag between them. The statues are actually a replica of French sculptor Fredric-Auguste Bartholdi's original in Paris and were donated to the people of Morningside Heights by the wealthy department store merchant Charles Rouss five years after the original was created in France. Some folks might recognize the name of Bartholdi since the sculptor is strongly associated with his most famous work, the Statue of Liberty. The closest train is the B,C or the 1 train at 110th Street for those who want to check it out. Photos by Ulysses

☞ DWELL: 12 Mount Morris Park West

Historic Mount Morris Park West is an amazing location, but the question nowadays is if it can bring in the large numbers that seem to be creeping back. With the asking price of $7.995 million, 12 Mount Morris Park West, between 121st and 122nd Street, might be the most expensive (renovated) townhouse to ever be on the market in Harlem. The single family home has 7 bedrooms, 6 baths, 9 fireplace and 2 updated kitchens with upgraded appliances. There's also a back yard and a 1,200 square foot roof terrace to further convince folks of the property's worth. The location is ideal with the Mount Morris Historic District boutique shops just around the corner on Lenox and the express 2,3 train at 125th Street. On the other hand, if a buyer has this sort of money to shell out, they probably are more concerned for parking spaces instead of public transportation. Read more about the historic Mount Morris Park District in our past post: LINK

☞ LISTEN: The JT Project at Shrine

The JT Project performing at Shrine on Tuesday, December 1st at 8:00 PM. See some of the new faces of jazz who are bringing the classic sounds to the younger generations. The JT Project duo, who are barely 21 years old, have been performing together the past couple of years with their updated jazz and R&B sound. Shrine is located at 2271 Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard (7th Avenue), between 133rd and 134th Street. Tel.(212) 690-7807. Check out the Shrine website for more information on the youngest of Harlem's live music venue.

☞ EAT: Cascabel Taqueria

Okay, it's not in Harlem but at 80th Street and 2nd Avenue, the proximity is close enough for uptowners to make a short jaunt to Cascabel Taqueria. Since we occasionally venture below 96th Street, we thought this might be a great place to go to check out an emerging trend. New York Magazine reports on how taco theme restaurants are finally starting to take off in the city and interestingly enough, Mexican wrestling has come into the picture. A little kitsch, with a little modern, update the space with luchador murals in the background and Mexican ephemera throughout the store. Ingredients such as fresh tuna in the fish tacos and Berkshire pork in the carnitas variations make the short train trip worth the effort. Cascabel Taqueria is located at 1542 Second Avenue and the 4,5,6 line at 86th Street is the closest station. Photo by Hanna Whitaker. Read more in New York Magazine: LINK

Sunday, November 29, 2009

☞ SEE: The Harlem High Bridge Circa Fall 1910

Turn of the century American impressionist Ernest Lawson used the the turn of the century rural settings of Harlem as inspiration for much of his work. The above painting of the High Bridge shows the fall foliage over a village-like setting. The bridge's central arcs would give way to a more modern steel arch construction in the following decade but the original roman aqueduct design is still apparent today on the sections nearer to the shorelines on the Manhattan and Bronx sides. See more Harlem artwork by this great classic painter in our past post: LINK. Click on image to enlarge.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

☞ WALK: Holiday Trees at Columbia Campus

Walking pass Columbia's main campus last week, we noticed that the holiday tree lights were being installed. If you haven't seen this seasonal tradition, come by sometimes in the early evening and check out the winter wonderland. All the trees in the main arcade have thousands of white lights wrapped around them and the overall affect is quite uplifting. In addition, the campus proper itself is worth the visit with its grand scale, McKim, Mead and White neoclassical buildings. Take the 1 train to 116th Street and head for the main gate on the east side of Broadway. Click image to enlarge for details. Photo by Ulysses

☞ DWELL: 417 West 141st Street Brownstone

New to the market is the multi-family brownstone on the southern reaches of the Hamilton Heights Historic District for the asking price of $1.25 million. The little row house at 417 West 141st Street, between St. Nicholas and Hamilton Terrace is on the northern most border of St. Nicholas Park and has uninterrupted views of the Hamilton Grange at its current location. The good and bad of it is that it's been completely gut renovated in the past five years but the interior is absolutely clinical and basic. Transportation is a quick four blocks up at 145th Street to reach the A,B,C,D express station. Word has it that there was an open house this past weekend but the broker didn't show so stay tuned for more updates. Photo by Ulysses.

☞ REMEMBER: Sugar Ray's on 7th Avenue

Sugar Ray Robinson was not only the world's most famous boxer in the 1940's and the 1950's, the athlete was also one of Harlem's most ostensible businessmen. The Harlem celebrity practically owned the block between 123rd Street and 124th Street on 7th Avenue's (today's ACP) west side of the street, right before the Hotel Theresa. The main shop of note was Sugar Ray's Restaurant and Bar (top photo) which the dapper showman posed in front of alongside his famous pink Cadillac for Life Magazine in 1950. Next door was Ray Robinson Enterprises which was his real estate business, alongside his wife's boutique called Edna May's Lingerie Shop, the Golden Glovers Barber Shop, and a beauty salon to complete the mix. Alas, today all is gone and even the block's buildings themselves have been replaced by government housing (lower photo). Nevertheless, if a new shop owner dresses up the nondescript building with some of the cool signage from the original stores, maybe a new franchise block can be found once more. The closest subways to this area is the A,B,C,D or 2,3 at 125th Street. Click on top photo to enlarge.

☞ REVIVE: Dinosaur BBQ Taking Over New Space

Dinosaur Bar-B-Que has been planning their big move since last year and it seems crunch time is at hand. The original plan was to move a block south on 12th Avenue at 125th Street by this fall. The current restaurant is technically on 131st Street and 12th Avenue but since 125th severely slices diagonally along the grid towards the Hudson, the new location is only about a block south from the restaurants original plot. The goal is to have the old warehouse on 125th Street fully renovated and to shut down the original operation the night before they switch to the new space.

When we walked by yesterday, the equipment was being moved in throughout the morning and a couple of Verizon trucks (at left of lower photo) had been parked out front. From the peek that we got of the interior, they still have quite a ways to go. If they speed along, maybe a mid-December opening is more realistic. On a positive note, this very popular Manhattanville eatery was successful in dealing with Columbia to move their business and basically stay in the same area. Some people don't get it, but the place is a roadhouse bar-b-que and the entire point was to have have it in an old school industrial looking area. Therefore, congrats to all parties for working it out. Dinosaur is currently located on 646 W 131st St. tel: 212-694-1777. Take the 1 train to 125th Street and head West towards the viaduct. See the original post on Dinosaur: LINK. Photos by Ulysses

☞ EAT: Chez Lucienne for Thanksgiving

For those who are not dining in a large group and want something more intimate for the Holiday, Chez Lucienne could be the romantic choice of the season. The bistro has a traditional Thanksgiving prix fix dinner with a French twist for the reasonable $29.95. Not bad for a three course meal at an elegant French restaurant. The outdoor seating will probably not be available, but fear not for the interior is just as charming. Chez Lucienne is located at 308 Malcolm X/Lenox Avenue, between 125th and 126th street. Tel.(212) 289-5555. Take the 2,3 train to 125th Street and walk a half block north.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

☞ SHOP: N Harlem Boutique Opens on Lenox

N Harlem boutique has officially opened on 171 Lenox between 118th and 119th Streets. We were a bit worked up last week in hopes that the facade activity portended a new awning but found only an upgraded vertical security gate system in place this weekend. The signage is probably behind schedule, so the owners went ahead and opened the boutique today. Come stop by and support Harlem's first designer boutique featuring menswear and womenswear collections. This new store is by the Mount Morris Park Historic District and is close to all the other new shops in South Harlem. The nearest subway is the 2,3 at 116th and 125th Street. See our previous post on N Harlem and the boutique culture of Harlem: LINK. Photos by Ulysses

☞ DWELL: 54 West 130th Street in Contract

On the market since the very end of August, number 54 on Astor Row's West 130th Street is in contract. The asking price of $995K looked promising to many first time home buyers, but the upgrades needed for plumbing and electrical systems along with very outdated baths and kitchens turned off quite a few folks. The current single family home is still a charmer and, even in a difficult market, it sold within three months. Does anyone know the accepted offer? Read more in our past post on one of Harlem's most famous streets: LINK. To get to this area, take the 2,3 express train to 125th street and walk on Lenox to 130th street. Photo of one of the neighboring houses by Ulysses.

☞ INTRODUCING: 88 Morningside Condos

We were sad to hear that, early in the year, the Church of the Master decided to sell their historic, century-old house of worship (lower photo) to developers. The 115 year-old neighborhood institution was demolished this past January, and the new condo complex called 88 Morningside has arisen on the plot at the south corner of West 122nd Street. The brick has been coming up on the side of the building, so the completion might be within one year of the former church's demise. The new luxury condo's neighbor, 92 Morningside Avenue (which we mentioned previously), is a burnt-out, graffiti-covered, massive shell of a building. It would have been nice to have kept the charming church view and developed the apartment building shell instead. The challenge now is how the developers will conceal the messy view of its rather cumbersome next-door neighbor when they try to sell units next year. Read more about the history of the Church of the Master and see the last color photograph taken of it in our previous post: LINK. The closest subway to this new development is the A,B,C,D at 125th Street. For a preview of the final product, go to: Top photo by Ulysses

☞ REVIVE: 92 Morningside Avenue

It's been seven years since a cigarette in an ashtray set off the fire that would burn out the interior of the building at 92 Morningside Avenue. This turn of the century, former luxury apartment building facing Morningside Park at West 122nd Street eventually became a basic rental building once the neighborhood fell into decline in the mid century. The top two photos show the building today with the cornice eventually removed at the roofline when it became unstable a couple of years later and graffiti started slowly appearing at the facade.

The last photo shows the twin sister building at 98 Morningside Avenue, attached at the left half of the block towards 123rd Street. Apparently the fire spared the second building, but the landlord has not been able to finance repairs or offer the former building up for sale. In our opinion, this building could be sold off to the proper developer as a mixed-income condo to help improve the area instead of eventually becoming a safety hazard. It also might be wise to have a "no smoking" clause the next time around. Photos by Ulysses

Monday, November 23, 2009

☞ DWELL: 401 Manhattan Avenue Brownstone

The location of the brownstone at 401 Manhattan Avenue (ivy-covered building in lower photo) between 116th and 117th Streets is a nice per, but a notable past owner might even be a better selling point. No, it's not a celebrity, but the Victorian curator of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. This single family home is located a block away from the B,C train at 116th in one direction and a block away from Morningside Park in the other. For the asking price of $1.595 million, one gets 4-5 bedrooms, 2 baths, working fireplaces and a backyard. It's definitely at a more difficult price point for first time buyers since there are no rental apartments to help subsidize the mortgage. On the other hand, there are quite a few three-bedroom condos asking for the same amount of money but offering much less in return.

☞ WALK: Where is Hedda Gobbler?

Looking around all the bird watcher blogs, we realized that Harlem's own hometown turkey, Hedda Gobbler hasn't been photographed in about a year. The wild female turkey was found roaming around a central Harlem housing projects in 2006 and was released into Morningside Park later that year. We have been trying to look out for her since spring but have not had any luck. Has anyone seen Hedda as of late? There is apparently another male turkey somewhere in the area also (males have the red colored throats) but that one has not been photographed as much. It's Thanksgiving time so maybe the turkeys are laying low. To get to Morningside Park, take the 1 or B,C train and walk towards Morningside Avenue. Photo taken a couple of years ago by

☞ EAT: Sweet Chef Southern Styles Bakery

The little pie and cake shop tucked away at 122 Hamilton Place is one gem of a bakery. Hidden away on this quiet corner or Hamilton Heights, one will find the little striped awning at the store front and a cozy, bricked wall interior with pies and cakes on display. What's most striking upon first entering the bakery is that of the baked, buttery pie crust aromas throughout the shop. This great little store actually feels like a small-town bakery, so it's a very charming establishment to have around for folks in the neighborhood. There are some smaller take-out orders, such as cookies and banana pudding, but the next time you have a need for that sweet potato pie or a home-style birthday cake, this is the place to be. Sweet Chef Southern Styles Bakery is at 122 Hamilton Place, between 141st and 142nd Street. Tel: (212) 862-5909. The nearest subways are the 1 train or the A,B,C,D train at 145th Street.

☞ ARCHITECTURE: 220 St. Nicholas Gets Glass

We noticed that the condo development on 220 St. Nicholas at 121st Street finally got its glass on this weekend. The building has been under construction for the past year but looked pretty amorphous until now. From the images posted at the side of the building, the glass will be mixed with some striking yellow panels. The couple of blocks between West 121st and 124th Streets on FDB and the junction of St. Nicholas will start to look completely different in the next three months since the Aloft Hotel and another major condo building will be finished by then. To get to this area, take the A,B,C,D to 125th Street. Photo by Ulysses

Sunday, November 22, 2009

☞ REMEMBER: The Washington Theatre

One of famed theater architect Thomas W. Lamb's oldest existing buildings sits modestly and quite unnoticed these days on Amsterdam Avenue, between West 149th and 150th Streets. The Washington Theatre, as it was named in 1910 (top photo), stayed open for forty years until its final days as a movie house somewhere in the 1950's. Today, the ornate, patriotic awning is gone, and new doors have been placed on the exterior of what is now known as the New Covenant Temple. Apparently, the 1432-seat theater's interior is substantially intact, but we could only locate the older photo at the bottom by which to reference it. To get to this northern reach of Hamilton Heights, take the 1 train or the A,B,C,D to 145th Street and head a few blocks north towards Amsterdam. The top photo was taken by turn of the century New York documentary photographer Joseph Byron at the Collection of the Museum of the City of New York.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

☞ EAT: Sylvia's for Thanksgiving

There might be a couple of spots left at Sylvia's, so if you are still in town for Thanksgiving, the legendary eatery might be a great option. At $23.95, you get the traditional feast at half the price than the rest of Manhattan will try to charge you. From 11:00 AM until 8:00 PM, it's the Thanksgiving prix-fixe menu offering at $23.95 per person for groups of five or more. Sylvia's is located 328 Lenox Ave. between 126th and 127th Street. Tel: 212-996-0660. The closest subway is the 2,3 train at 125th Street.

☞ SHOP: Memory Lane by Toya

Memory Lane by Toya is a line of custom gift items made by Toya. Her work consists of collage-based pop culture home decor and purse items. All Memory Lane by Toya products, including t-shirts, hand-crafted picture frames, cigar boxes and other home items, are centered around all things nostalgic - made by Toya. Meet the designer and see her goods at the Harlem Holiday Trunk Show on Saturday, November 21st, from 12:00 noon - 6:00 PM at Casa Frela located at 47 West 119th Street between Lenox Avenue/Malcolm X and 5th Avenue (Mount Morris Park Historic District). Take the 2,3 train to 116th Street or 125th Street. Go to the Memory Lane website to see more of the retro-kitsch designs along with some modern presidential options: Photos courtesy of Memory Lane by Toya.

☞ WALK: N Boutique's New Awning

UPDATE: Only a new veritcal gate was installed as of Saturday morning. The mid November opening of N Harlem Boutique seems to be coming along. We noticed men working on the new front facade awning yesterday so maybe in the next week or so, the new store will be revealed. N Harlem was the first designer boutique to arrive north of 96th Street and moved to the Mount Morris Park Historic District in the beginning of the year. To get the new store location, take the 2,3 express train to 125th or 116th Street.

Friday, November 20, 2009

☞ SEE: Faith Ringgold's Mosaics at 125th Street

One of the best pieces of public art might be found at the 2,3 station on 125th Street. African-American artist Faith Ringgold has an entire series of mosaics that captures the classical art form and reinvents in a historic Harlem context. Floating dream-like figures pass over such institutions as the Apollo (top), the Studio Museum of Harlem (center) and the Cotton Club (last). There are quite a few more pieces that often include establishments that are long-gone but beloved in the minds of any citizen of Harlem. The station itself has probably seen better days, but the walls lining the interior always brighten one's visit. Photos by Ulysses

☞ INTRODUCING: Ringgold Children's Museum

The Columbia Spectator reports today on the planned Faith Ringgold Children's Museum and affordable housing building that will be set up on West 155th Street. Known as the Sugar Hill Project, the modern building was started by the support of Ringgold (who has quilts hanging in the Guggenheim) and the Broadway Housing Communities organization. Another key player will be David Adjaye, who coincidentally was the architect selected to build the new Smithsonian National Museum of African-American Culture in Washington D.C. Slated to open in 2012, the building will have 124 units on the upper levels along with an early childhood center. This corner of St. Nicholas Place and West 155th Street currently has a castle-like parking garage and a gas station on it. Apparently the gas station is staying, but the older building is going (lower photo). Read more about in the Spectator: LINK

☞ DWELL: 203 West 112th Street Condo

Open House, Sunday, November 22nd, from 1:00-2:00 PM. With all the intricate, Beaux Arts detail on the front facade, the condo in the building called the Washington Irving at 203 West 112th Street between ACP/7th Avenue and FDB/8th Avenue is fit for a boulevard in Paris. Up on the market is a four-bedroom, two-bath apartment on the sixth floor encompassing 1,807 square feet of total space. With the 2,3 express train two blocks away on 110th Street and Central Park itself, the price for $1.25 million might stick. Plus, the dwelling seems to have some original detail on the interior, and it's pretty much a turn-key apartment, meaning no fix-up work needed for potential buyers.

☞ SEE: (IN)TANGIBLE in East Harlem

Tonight, Friday, November 20, 2009 6-9pm. The Taller Boricua presents "(IN)TANGIBLE," a group exhibition of 11 contemporary New York artists whose work blurs the boundaries between states of permanence and permeability, collapsing the distinctions within the visible and invisible forces that surround our lives. Gallery Hours: Tuesday through Saturday 12-6pm, Thursday 1-7pm Monday and Sunday Closed. The Taller Boricua Galleries (top photo) which is in the landmark P.S. 72 building at 1680 Lexington Avenue. Tel: 212.831.4333. Take the 6 train to 103rd Street and walk to 105th Street. Exhibit showing November 20th - January 9th. See our past post on the distinct building that is today's Julia de Burgos Latino Cultural Center: LINK. Building photo by Ulysses

Thursday, November 19, 2009

☞ REMEMBER: Old Broadway and 126th Street

Big government developments are nothing new for Manhattanville since entire sections of the small West Harlem nabe have been built over in the past. The archival photo, circa 1938, shows the northern reaches of Bloomingdale Road, which was known as Old Broadway by the turn of the century. The cross street at the foreground is West 126th Street and the Sheltering Arms asylum for homeless children can be seen to the right of the picture. On the next corner block, notice some original wood frame houses from the mid 19th century with their corner store windows exposed to the street (middle photo). The last photo is the block today, which has a community health center and a park on the Sheltering Arms lot; Old Broadway itself is lined with public housing that deconstructed the entire residential area in the late 1950's and early 1960's as part of the city's Urban Renewal projects. This area today is a block east of Broadway, past the elevated 1 train at 125th Street. Archival photo courtesy of NYPL. Last photo by Ulysses

☞ SLEEP: The Indigo Arms Guest House

Located at the corner of 119th Street and Lenox Avenue in the the Mount Morris Park Historic District, the Indigo Arms Guest House might just be the perfect bed and breakfast in Harlem. We saw this brownstone at the Historic House tour this year, and it's one of the more meticulously kept spaces as far as your average B & B is concerned. With the new Harlem Yoga Studio downstairs, a boutique florist and cafes along this section of Lenox, plus the 2,3 express trains at 125th and 116th Street, this charming inn would be an absolute choice for those priced out of downtown hotels. That said, this neighborhood is probably a lot quieter and more picturesque than the majority of downtown offerings. Another point to note for those looking for an event space is that the owners do often rent out the common areas for smaller size parties. The Indigo Arms Guest House is located at 181 Lenox Avenue. Tel. 212-316-9122. House photo by Ulysses. To check out the rooms and availability, check out the website: