Monday, August 31, 2009

☞ SEE: Saddi Khali at Casa Frela Gallery

Remember Peace, Rembember Pleasure, works by photographer Saddi Khali will be on exhibit at Casa Frela Gallery starting this coming Saturday, September 5th at 8:00 PM. The "voluptuous" photography exhibit will have a kick-off party with live music at this Mount Morris Park brownstone art salon. The location is at 47 West 119th Street, between 5th Avenue an Malcolm X/6th Avenue. Closest subway is the 2,3 at 116th Street. For more information, go to the Casa Frela website: LINK

☞ WALK: Inside the Hamilton Theater

Yes, it's our latest obsession, the Hamilton Theater in Hamilton Heights, on 146th and Broadway. A dollar store inhabits the lobby currently, but the theater itself has been closed to the public and has not been in use for over two decades. In a state of elegant decline, the stage and seats are still intact. A commenter on called Movie Place NYC had the privilege of having a tour and taking these photos. To read more on the Hamilton Theatre, read our past post: LINK

Saturday, August 29, 2009

☞ DWELL: 237 West 131st Street Brownstone

OPEN HOUSE, Sunday, August 30th from 2:00-4:00 PM. This block on west 131st Street between FDB/8th Avenue and ACP/7th Avenue seems to have a few brownstones up for sale in the past couple of months. As mentioned before, the specific buyer would have to be able to live with views that are not picture perfect since a major housing complex sits across on the south side of the street. The house, which is the furthest to the right in the top photo, seems to be in better shape than another shell on the block that is selling for a similar asking price. How much? $470K asking should be a pretty good starter for the deal seeker. The express A,B,C,D train and the 2,3 on 125th Street is only a five minute walk away so getting to midtown under twenty minutes is a plus along with the commercial corridor of 125th Street that is nearby. See more on all our other 131st Street post: LINK

☞ EAT: Whole Foods Opens on 99th Street

The newest Whole Foods has opened on 99th Street and Columbus Avenue this past Thursday, August 27th. For the popular food chain with a cult like following, this is the furthest north of Manhattan it has ever reached. Although technically in what is known by some as the Manhattan Valley part of town, this proximity is easily within reach for most Harlem residents. With all the amenities happening above 96th Street, we hardly venture further south of the 96th Street station these days. To read more, go to for the full report. Photo courtesy of Located on 808 Columbus Avenue, the nearest subway is the the 1,2,3 train at 96th Street and the B,C Train at 103rd Street.

Friday, August 28, 2009

☞ DWELL: 54 West 130th Street on Astor Row

The NY Times just covered Astor Row this month and, coincidentally, one of the historic buildings are coming up for sale. With the asking price of $995K, the house with the front yard, grand, wooden porch, a backyard and 3,525 square feet of Manhattan space could be a dream come true for the right future homeowner. It seems move-in ready but has not been updated since the 1970's, so only a slight bit of imagination might be needed for the space. The house will not be shown until September 8th, so keep a look out for updates on Harlem Bespoke. To read more about Astor Row, go to our many previous posts on this one-of-a-kind historic district: LINK

☞ WALK: West 147th Street Building Signs

Discovering old signage painted on buildings is always an interesting historical find. When we looked at P.S. 90 this past weekend, we ran into these triptych of advertising for Omega Oil on the sides of the buildings on West 147th Street between ACP/7th Avenue and Malcolm X/6th Avenue. Guessing from the look of the ads, they seem to be at least from the 1920's since the lettering still has a curvilinear nature to it. Another clue: a trial bottle was 10 cents.

These painted signs, which appeared throughout the city (including 67th Street and Broadway), were the brainchild of nineteenth-century advertising executive Michael Wineburgh, founder of the Omega Oil Company and a Harlem resident as the original owner of the Mt. Morris Park townhouse at 216 W. 122nd Street. For those who are interested in seeing his handiwork, the nearest train to the three giant panels is the A,B,C,D on 145th Street or the 3 train on 148th.

☞ LISTEN: Joey Morant at Minton's

Modern Jazz legend, Joey Morant, performs at Minton's Playhouse, this Saturday, August 29th at 10:00 PM. Come see the renowned trumpeter and his band at the one and only Minton's. $10 the cover on weekends. Located at 206-210 West 118th Street between 7th and St. Nicholas Avenue. Tel.212-864-8346. Take the B,C or 2,3 train to 116th Street. See more on the schedule at the Minton's Playhouse website: LINK

Thursday, August 27, 2009

☞ REMEMBER: The Corner of 117th and Lenox

The last time we had a historic photo of southern Lenox Avenue in the late 19th century, most of the street views were still very pastoral. The above shot is the block on the north east corner of 117th and Lenox, a couple of decades later, in the early 1900's and illustrates the lively new businesses that the street would attract in the brand new buildings of the early 20th century. John Schultz's store at no. 144 Lenox advertises pilsner, beers and porter above the cornice of the windows and produce stands can be seen at the side. The store to left has H. Goldenberg as signage but it is unclear what they sold from all the crates out front. Today, this corner exist on a sort of mundane, architectural neutral zone on Lenox, one block north of the 2,3 train at 116th Street and these buildings are no longer there for the entire block consist of nondescript, late 20th century structures. Archival photo via NYPL

☞ DWELL: P.S. 90 Condominiums

After seeing the on-going, decades long saga of P.S. 186 at a standstill, its refreshing to see that there has been progress in restoring some of the other historic schools in Harlem. P.S. 90 is slated to open its doors again this fall as condominiums and we dropped by to see how it was coming along this past weekend. Closed since 1975, it will be almost three decades later for the school building to open once more. Located in between the blocks of 147th and 148th Street between FDB/8th Avenue and ACP/7th Avenue, the building really is the last transformative events to happen to this section of Harlem. On the FDB side, and the 148th Street section at the front of the building, the old prewar building are pristine and the sidewalks look brand new. Only the 8th Avenue section that borders this micro nabe is still a little rough around the edges with some views of lofty old public housing buildings at the end of the block. We were thrilled to see that many new windows are up for the majority of the building and that the light at the end of a long tunnel seems to be at hand. Bravo to the website also. It's one of the best designed ones we have seen so far that gives a nod to history and is contemporary at the same time:

☞ EAT: Tonalli Cafe Bar

A reader informed us last week of the new Italian eatery, Tonalli, that opened up in off of Broadway and 150th Street in Hamilton Heights. Many in the neighborhood have been rejoicing over the fact that the restaurant offers a nice change over the usual local latin restaurants. The exterior is quite charming with its paneled glass windows and scalloped awning (the square graphic logo on top is a little odd though) and the interior is contemporary and feels like a restaurant that would have opened in Chelsea in the late 1990's. As we looked in, a woman passed by and exclaimed that the food was "Good"! Located at 3628 Broadway. Tel. 212.926.0399. Take the 1 train to 145th Street to try it out.

☞ WALK: St. Nicholas Park Gardener Tour

Today, Thursday, August 27th at Noon. St. Nicholas Park's gardener, Jennifer Brull will meet folks at the 135th Street entrance today to start a tour of the Park's gardens. Photo courtesy of the St. Nicholas Park website: LINK. Take the B,C train to 135th Street. Read more on St. Nicholas Park in our past post: LINK

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

☞ SEE: Harlem in Harper's September Issue

The Harper's Bazaar big September issue focuses in on Harlem. Renowned fashion photographer, Peter Lindbergh, captures the mood of classic Harlem with contemporary clothes that alludes to the jazz years of the 1940's. The top photo of model Chanel Iman shows the majestic viaduct on 125th Street and the third incarnation of the famous Cotton Club. Another major location shot is at the iconic Lenox Lounge. To see more, run out to the newsstand and get a copy in order to take a look at the fashionable side of Harlem. Click on photo for detail.

☞ DWELL: 235 West 113th Street Condominium

There was a time when Harlem was brand-new, and the brownstones and new buildings had the feeling of a shiny new car. If one ever wondered what those residences might have felt like when first completed, we think that the architects who worked on the 235 West 113th Street building created one of the best contextual structures around. Most amateurish attempts by developers to maximize a 20' wide lot really end up as out of proportion "finger" buildings that jet up high above the rows of neighboring brownstones to maximize air rights. The ceilings are low in these unfortunate attempts at architecture so that they can get more floors in, and some rather fake-looking classic details are thrown on the facade that look like they were made for a stage set.

The 113th Street building is the only taller building that we have seen in a row of brownstones that looks like it belongs there. The lower windows line up to the neighbors, there are even fire escapes, and let's not forget the very substantial cornice on top. The doors are brand-new with paneled windows, and their ironwork at the entrance is quite attractive, too. The location sits between the new amenities of the popular FDB/8th Avenue section of South Harlem and ACP/7th Avenue with Central Park 3 blocks away. Transportation wise, the local B,C train and the express 2,3 train on 110th Street is only a five minute walk. If a developer ends up buying some of those empty lots in the historic Mount Morris Park district, they should give these guys a call. See more on the 113th Condo website: LINK

☞ SHOP: N Harlem Signature Tee Shirts

The N Boutique that originated on West 116th Street will be relocating this fall to a more posh historic Lenox Avenue location between 118th and 119th Street. For those who cannot wait, there are some great tee-shirts on their on-line store, and the first 50 orders will apparently receive free shipping. To get it now, go to for more information.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

☞ EAT: Patsy's 76th Anniversary Celebration

Wednesday, August 26th is the big day! From 11 AM-5 PM, East Harlem's Patsy's will revert back to their original 1933 prices. Whole pizza pies for 70 cents, steaks going for 90 cents and sodas will be going for recession proof 1 cents! This event gets a lot of press in the past but worth the wait for these prices. For more impatient folks willing to shell out good money for a great slice, see our previous post on Patsy's: LINK. 2287 1st Avenue between 117th St & 118th Street. Tel. (212) 534-9783 Take the 6 train to 116th Street and walk east for three avenues and one block north.

☞ DRINK: Speakeasy 1220 Fifth Grand Finale

End the summer with the Museum of the City of New York in East Harlem for their 1920's Jazz Party this Wednesday, August 26th, From 6:00 PM-9:00 PM. Join the Museum and Club Wit's End for a spirited celebration of the Jazz Age, encompassing live music and dance of the 1920s and ‘30s. Enjoy a beginner's Charleston dance lesson at 6:10 PM with Akemi Kinukawa, followed by a live musical performance by The Moonlighters. Professional dancers wearing vintage and vintage-inspired clothing will dance throughout the night. At 7:00 PM, Kevin Fitzpatrick, author of A Journey into Dorothy Parker’s New York, will speak about the Jazz Age. Cocktails will be served on the Museum’s front terrace. Vintage dress is optional. Museum Members: $10 | Non-Members: $12. Admission includes one FREE drink and access to the Museum's first and second-floor galleries. No reservations, tickets sold at the door. Located at 1220 5th Avenue between 103rd and 104th Street. Tel.(212) 534-1672. Take the 6 train to 103rd Street. For more information, go to the museum website: LINK

☞ DWELL: 542 West 158th Street Brownstone

The yellow bricked townhouse (the right-hand half of the yellow building in the top photo) on 158th Street between Riverside Drive and Riverside Drive West is slightly past the northern border of Harlem and in the southern reaches of Washington Heights. Nevertheless, the row of townhouses that line the southern side of the block feel more like traditional Harlem with its tree-lined sidewalks and turn-of-the-century architecture. The asking price of $995K seems reasonable for a move-in condition house in Manhattan, so what's the catch? The location is very close to the 1 train at 157th Street, but that's a local train, so commutes to midtown will be at least 30 minutes. Also, this section of 158th Street is an exit ramp for the Henry Hudson Parkway, and traffic is quite brisk for a side street. Finally, in our opinion, the views on the north side of the street are not as picturesque since they basically are the backside of some very tall pre-war buildings. Read more about this section on the fringe of the newly landmarked Audubon Park Historic District: LINK

☞ SHOP: Scotty's Antique Shop

Scotty's New and Used Furniture is a family-run business that seems to have been around for several decades from the looks of their classic retro signage out front. What one will find inside is a down-to-earth antique shop that buys and sells old furniture from the neighborhood. We haven't seen too many smaller stores like this one in upper Manhattan (just the massive Demolition Depot in East Harlem) specializing in old furniture. Occasionally, the hard-to-find mid-century modern or Danish modern pieces do show up, but they tend to disappear quickly. Scotty's is on 3 Hancock Place (1 block south of 125th Street) between Morningside Avenue and St. Nicholas. Tel. 212-865-3500. Closest subway is the A,B,C,D train at 125th Street.

☞ LISTEN: Sunday Gospel in Harlem

For those who are not even that religious, the Baptist Churches in Harlem are a big draw in Harlem on Sunday. Not only does the fashion photographer, the Sartorialist, think that Harlem church goers are the best dressed in the city, but hoards of Europeans also take over locals houses of worship to hear all the singing. We walked by the small Baptist church on West 125th Street this past Sunday, and a church member was turning away folks from the door since it was already packed inside. Crowds of about 50-100 people line up to see one of Harlem's best-kept secrets, most coming from Spain and France with some Brits thrown in the mix. West 125th Street tends to have lots of Sunday traffic since it is the main thoroughfare (most of these churches tend to be converted theaters or warehouses), but the avenues of ACP/7th Avenue and Lenox/6th Avenue have the more majestic religious institutions. Our pick would be the Abyssinian Baptist Church for those who want the quintessential Harlem experience. See the previous post on this iconic church: LINK

Monday, August 24, 2009

☞ DWELL: 443 East 115th Street in Contract

The building that used to house the National Museum of Catholic Art and History in the Italian section of East Harlem is now in contract. The property was purchased from the New York Archdiocese in 2007 and went through a $15 million restoration back in 2001. With over 25,000 square feet, it would be interesting to see what the facility gets converted into. Listed in December of last year, the original price was $8 million, and the building has gone into contract eight months later with the asking price of $4.9 million. Regardless, this building is on a charming block in the former Italian Harlem section of East Harlem between 1st Avenue and Pleasant Avenue, which is worth the trip over to discover once again. Nearest subway is the 6 train at the 116th Street station.

☞ REMEMBER: Carolyn Kent

The New York Daily News reports that West Harlem preservationist Carolyn Kent has passed away at the age of 74. Mrs. Kent will be remembered as the Jane Jacobs of Morningside Heights and as a dedicated citizen who helped us see that the beauty in the neighborhoods uptown is worth fighting for. NY Daily News: LINK. Photo courtesy of the NY Daily News.

☞ WALK: The Hamilton Theater

After yesterday's thunderstorms, we took a few more shots of the former Hamilton Theater on Broadway and 146th Street. Peering into the dollar store that has taken over the space, we noticed that most of the interior has been covered with dry wall and that only the marble mosaic floors bear evidence to its grand past. This is one of those buildings that, the more one looks at it, the more beautiful it looks. See our previous post for the full history of this amazing landmark: LINK. Photos by Ulysses

Sunday, August 23, 2009

☞ WALK: The Paterno Carriage Drive

We had a post last month on the iconic 440 Riverside Drive prewar building called The Paterno and mentioned its incredible driveway. The above shot is a glimpse of the Gothic archways, old wood and brass revolving door and cobblestone pavement. Although a little narrow for cars today, the entrance is still one of the grandest architectural details in Harlem. For a better look, take the 1 train to 116th Street and walk west towards Riverside Drive. To read more on The Paterno, go to the previous post: LINK

☞ LISTEN: Sunday Jazz at Shrine

Lu Reid's Jazz All Stars have been performing every Sunday at Shrine from 4-8pm. The local band is a six-piece ensemble with up to six guest singers on this end-of-weekend event. Come see the show for FREE as part of a late brunch or early evening drinks. 2271 Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard (7th Avenue), between 133rd and 134th Street. Tel.(212) 690-7807.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

☞ DWELL: 100 St. Nicholas Avenue Co-op #6B

Open house Thursday, August 27th between 4:30-6:00 PM. This three bedroom, prewar co-op apartment on St. Nicholas Avenue and 115th Street is a looker, but will the price work in this economy? The positive side is that the place looks to have been totally renovated in the best finishes and the most updated appliances and yet has all the mouldings and details one expects in a historic space. Located in the southern reaches of Harlem, the elevator building is a few blocks east of Morningside Heights, five minutes north of Central Park, and only three blocks away from the Mount Morris Park Historic District. The only major issue here is the layout of the apartment, which has many unusual angles and all three (small-ish) bedrooms consecutive to one another. The asking price is $549K with a low maintenance of $538 per month. The closest subway is 116th Street and Lenox Avenue. Nearest subway is the 2,3 line at 116th Street.

Friday, August 21, 2009

☞ WALK: La Granja Live Poultry Market

A Bespoke reader inquired about the live poultry market on Amsterdam Avenue and 126th Street after perusing our post about the nearby Mink Building. The top two photos show the market in 1934 as the Antzis Brothers' Amsterdam Poultry Market. The business might have originally started in observance to the Jewish population in the early years of Harlem because of religious dictates. The top photo shows the Mink Building in the background while the center photo is a close-up of the same image. Today, the market is called La Granja ("the farm" in Spanish), where one can not only find chickens, but also goat meat, alluding to the Hispanic population that settled in this part of Manhattanville in the latter half of the 20th century. For those who are curious, one can actually peek into the business on warm days, at the 126th Street side of the building, and see the livestock. The nearest subway is the 1 train at the 125th Street station. To read more about the Mink Building, see our post early this week: LINK.  Archival photo via NYPL

☞ DWELL: 239 West 123rd Street Brownstone

For under a million, the brownstone at 239 West 123rd Street between FDB/8th Avenue and ACP/7th Avenue might be the perfect match for those searching in the borders of South Harlem and Morningside Heights. Apparently the house has many original details intact and the owner has started a partial renovation on the parlor floor. By the looks of it, the place might not be considered habitable since there are plywood boards up instead of windows so renovation loans might be an issue for those buyers who can not pay for the property in cash. The asking price is $950K so it might do well with a bit of haircut to make it more attractive since its been on the market for a couple of months now. The location, by the way, is excellent with the ever changing FDB corridor and Morningside Park close by and the A,B,C,D and 2,3 express trains close by at 125th Street.

☞ EAT: Orbit

Many say that Orbit, in East Harlem, brings on a downtown vibe to this part of El Barrio but others often debate if the food is on par with its brethren down south. Located on the corner of East 116th Street and 1st Avenue, this restaurant is a popular bar hangout at nights on the weekends and was on the NY Post best brunch list for 2008. Most agree the atmosphere is an upgrade for restaurants in the nabe but sometimes the food is hit or miss on the standard menu. Overall, a good neighborhood spot for folks on the far east side of Harlem. 2257 1st Avenue. Tel. (212) 348-7818. Nearest subway is the 6 train at 116th Street

Thursday, August 20, 2009

☞ ARCHITECTURE: 218 E.125th Street Library

Back on 125th Street, in East Harlem, among the row of 19th and early 20th Century buildings sits one of the first libraries in the area. The New York Free Circulating Library, Harlem Branch was built sometimes in the late 19th century and the top photo shows the new local community kids making use of the cobble stone front streets that existed at the time in this brand new neighborhood. The New York Public Library would eventually take over by 1909 and build an updated structure, two buildings down. The little red building would eventually fall into private hands in later years and lay dormant. Recently, this little reminder of the early years of East Harlem, has become the TWO Fifth Lounge which host nightly events. The building is located next door to the Demolition Depot between 2nd and 3rd Avenue with the 4,5, 6 train at 125th Street being the closest subway line.

☞ INTRODUCING: Nicholi White

What does a Harlem 8th grader who wants to be a video star, but has no recording equipment, do on summer break? He goes down to the Apple Store on 5th Avenue and uses the interactive display cameras there and sends the file to his computer at home. With startled, wandering folks in the background, Nicholi White lip synchs and dances his way to becoming a youtube hit and has been invited to appear on Oprah most recently. Read about this young celebrity's rise as a youtube phenom in today's NY Post: link.

☞ SEE: Inside St. Nick's Pub

St. Nicks Pub, the legendary jazz club up on Sugar hill, revels in its cheeky, dive bar atmosphere along with lots of song and merriment. The collages on the wall, under the low, popcorn texture ceiling, feels like an homage to 80's pop which is so old, it's new again (click on photo to enlarge). There are live performances every night alongside an enthusiastic crowd. See more on St. Nicks in our previous post: LINK. Cash Only. No cover but drink minimums apply and $3.00 to sit at any table. Standing free. Jazz all week at midnight except Saturday West African Rhythms. 773 Saint Nicholas Ave at 149th street. Tel.(212) 283-7132. Closest train is the A,B,C,D on 145th Street. Go to the sidebar for a website link and weekly schedule. Photo by Barbarito.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

☞ EAT: Giovanna's

Giovanna's in East Harlem is one of the new restaurants offering something a little different in El Barrio. The Italian and pizza eatery provides this section of town a restaurant with a room with a view, albeit an overly bright one (based on some reviews on the lighting) and an alternative to the latin restaurants that populate the nabe. Word has it that the pizza is the thing to get here and that the Italian fare is fair enough. 1567 Lexington Avenue between 100th St & 101st Street. Tel. (212) 360-6300. Take the 6 train to 103rd Street for the nearest subway.

☞ BESPOKE: Striped Awnings

Morningside Heights' brand-new Cafe Bagutta has added a very bespoke awning to its vintage exterior. As we mentioned in the prior post, we absolutely adore retro stripes on a storefront, and Bagutta's aqua and white stripe awning adds some downtown panache to the usual solid assortments of awnings found above 110th Street. Of course, there are a couple of other businesses in the area that have achieved the same charm including Lee Lee's Bakery in South Harlem and Bagutta's neighbor a block north, Kitchenette. Cafe Bagutta is located at 1241 Amsterdam Avenue between West 120th and West 121st Street. Tel.(212) 222-6340. Take the A, C, B, D to 125th Street or the 1 train to 116th Street.

☞ DWELL: 79 West 119th Street Brownstone

The brownstone at 79 West 119th Street is another townhouse in the Mount Morris Park Historic District located between Malcolm X/Lenox Avenue and 5th Avenue. While this area offers great neighborhood amenities, this listing has been on the market for eight months, so one would hope that the seller would make some reductions from the $1.5 million asking price at this point. This SRO building with tenants is going up against other SROs in the nabe that are under one million in asking price, so the owners might have to wait a bit longer for a buyer to come along. As far as the interior goes, all of the original woodwork is intact (the exterior door, on the other hand, is unfortunate) but heavily painted over, so there's still much to do to get it back in shape. Big perks for the area include the nearest subway is the 2,3 express train on 125th Street and that Lenox Avenue along this section of Harlem is becoming the most picturesque as far as local cafes are concerned.