Wednesday, September 30, 2009

☞ EAT: Pancho Gringo Gets Its New Signage

We didn't like that Talay, in West Harlem's Manhattanville, was changing its name to Pancho Gringo but reality has just set in now that the new sign has been put up on the roof this afternoon. This type of sign is actually quite cool and industrial looking but the choice of theme could have been handled better. Old signs like these remind us of the Pepsi Cola sign in Long Island City, the Domino Sugar sign in Brooklyn and the old clubs of Harlem. See our previous post on Talay to get the full story: LINK

☞ DWELL: 547 West 149th Street Brownstone

When the brownstone on 547 West 149th Street was no longer listed at the end of June of this year, we assumed it was off the market. The property has returned in the past couple of months and most recently has had a trim off of its original asking price of $725K. Currently things are looking to be more reasonable up in the 140's of West Harlem since this building is now going for $599K. For the real deal seekers, this makes better sense since it will cost around $300-400K to renovate and most folks on a budget probably do not want to go over $1 million if they are intending to fix a place up. See our previous post back in June for more details on the block and transportation for this building: LINK

☞ SEE: The Harlem River High Bridge circa 1902

We have written about the carriage speedway under the High Bridge over the Harlem River in the past and most recently found this Thomas Edison film showing a procession of horses and carriages in 1902. Nobody is really racing in the clip but an interesting point of reference is how the bridge up top is busy with pedestrian traffic. The High Bridge has been closed for almost four decades and the city is trying to restore it currently for a 2010 opening so that the public may be able to walk across it once more. Take the 1 or A,C train to 168th Street and walk east to Amsterdam and 173rd Street. Read more on the High Bridge in our past post: LINK

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

☞ DWELL: Cameron Mathison to Sell Brownstone

Yes, it's true: daytime television star Cameron Mathison is selling his brownstone and will be leaving Harlem. ABC is moving their New York shows to the West Coast to save some dollars, and therefore the Mathison family will be moving out of their brownstone on 136 West 130th Street. Now on the market for the asking price of $2.7 million, this celebrity home is more on the modern side but will not need any further financial investments from the new owner since it has completely been gut-renovated. Even though we appreciate our interiors more on the classic side, what's nice about this property is that it has a fully-redone outdoor space that can universally be admired. The block located between ACP/7th Avenue and Lenox/6th Avenue has many renovated brownstones lining the streets, but there are a few shells left, including the one next door. The nearest subway is the either the 2,3 or A,B,C,D train on 125th Street. See the previous video post on the Mathison family in Harlem: LINK.

☞ INTRODUCING: Muddy Waters Cafe

Fourth time is a charm for Muddy Waters since they just squeaked by their third opening date of September and will have their soft launch this weekend! We walked by and took a peek inside the coffee shop, and it looks better than basic. Actually, it's done rather well, and we are pleasantly surprised. The sign out front has the official opening for next Friday, on October 9th. Muddy Waters Cafe is at 2185 ACP/7th Avenue between 129th and 130th Street. Closest subway is the 2,3 or A,B,C,D station at 125th Street.

☞ ARCHITECTURE: Mansard House on 152nd

Walking down West 152nd Street from Broadway to the corner of Amsterdam Avenue, we ran into this charming, well-preserved house from the late 19th century. The Empire-style mansard roof is still in place, and the facade is in amazing condition. Most of what's left of these types of houses in central Harlem have all sorts of alterations to their exteriors, so it's nice to see one in such great condition up in the northern reaches of West Harlem and Hamilton Heights. Take the 1 train to the 145th Street stop.

☞ EAT: Waiting For Cafe Largo

Another sign of the hardships of the recession is the trio of restaurants that had started to turn around the corner of West 137th Street and Broadway in West Harlem but have been closed since late spring. The downtown lounge-like restaurant, Cafe Largo, the smart looking bakery, Vinegar Hill and the reliable take out Mexican eatery, Tres Pasos, have shuttered in consecutive months for some sort of financial restructuring by the owner (who is the proprietor of all three establishments). We walked by last week, and there are signs up on each, informing customers that the spaces are "closed temporarily." That being said, we will keep a look-out to let folks know when to expect the doors to open again. Nearest subway is the 1 train at 137th Street, City College Station.

Monday, September 28, 2009

☞ REMEMBER: Manhattanville Circa 1862

The top image is from an old photograph of Manhattanville taken from a high lookout point on the northern borders of Central Park around 1862. We rarely find mid-19th century photographs of Harlem, so it's pretty amazing to see Harlem pictured this way instead of the usually prints and drawings. The lower photo is the similar view today but taken from the west, off of Morningside Park. Click on images to enlarge. See our previous post on what the area looked like as rendered by the artist of the time: LINK

☞ DWELL: 24 Hamilton Terrace Brownstone

This Hamilton Heights brownstone, with the asking price $1.79 million, is on one of the most quiet, picturesque blocks of West Harlem. At approximately 142nd Street, no. 24 Hamilton Terrace is in mint condition and has all its original details. The coffered ceiling in the dining room is a detail that is rarely preserved in most houses uptown, and all the woodwork is in tip-top condition. St. Nicholas Park is only a couple of blocks away, and the A,B,C,D express train is a five minute walk north on 145th Street. It's a quiet life at this section of Harlem, which is most ideal for folks who are settled down, since there's not much as far as amenities.

☞ EAT: Jimmy's Classic Diner

Steel-clad diners can be found in any town or weekend road trip, but they seem to be a dying breed in Manhattan. Interestingly enough, all of the old establishments have closed north of 110th Street, and Jimmy's Classic Diner is one of the newer spots in town. This 24 hour eatery is about a year old and provides the old diner stand-bys in familiar, Americana interior, along with providing take-out service for residents new and old in the ever-diversifying East Harlem neighborhood. The restaurant is located on 1634 Lexington Avenue between 103rd Street and 104th Street, by the 6 train station at 103rd. Tel. (212) 722-5422. Based on current information, the diner was temporarily shut down because of needed repairs. For updates, go to

☞ SEE: The Extended Mojo Video

We premiered the national commercial featuring S. Epatha Merkerson and the restaurant Mojo last month, but recently found the extended, uncut version with more footage of Harlem and the restaurant. See the final, edited version in our original post: LINK.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

☞ LISTEN: Duo Marchand at the Jumel Mansion

Saturday, October 3rd at the Morris Jumel Mansion, from 4:00-6:00 PM. Duo Marchand will present a sampler of the modestic music making of colonial America, spotlighting Duo Marchand's vintage 1770 English guitar and Italianate triple harp. The top photo is the garden view of the mansion while the lower photo shows Sylvan Terrace at the side entrance of the estate. Tickets are $25 per person and $20 for members. Advanced registration is required. Call 212 923 8008. Learn more about one of the oldest estates in Manhattan from our previous post: LINK. The mansion is located at 65 Jumel Terrace between 160th and 161st Streets. Nearest Transit: 163rd St (C), 157th St (1).

Saturday, September 26, 2009

☞ MEET: The Fitzgeralds of Harlem

We covered them before but this past Thursday was F. Scott Fitzgerald's birthday and we had to add another photo of the author and his future wife, Zelda. The above portrait is from their earlier years so it is possible that the two could have been living at 200 Claremont Avenue at that point in time. The lower photo shows the building today. Read more about the famous couple's early years in Harlem from our previous post: LINK. Lower photo by Ulysses

☞ DWELL: 525 Manhattan Avenue Brownstone

Open House, Sunday, September 27th, 1:00-2:00 PM. The brownstone at 525 Manhattan Avenue between West 121st and 122nd Street is in the lower valley of Morningside Heights, only a few steps away from Morningside Park. The asking price is $1.25 million for what seems to be a move in condition brownstone that is less than 20 feet wide. The interiors are all dry wall and exposed bricks with not much original detail. The closest subway is the express A,B,C,D at 125th Street so the commute to midtown is on 15 minutes. The immediate neighborhood is extremely peaceful and very close to FDB/8th Avenue's new Harlem shops. Photo by Ulysses

Friday, September 25, 2009

☞ ARCHITECTURE: The Claremont Theatre

Now a storage facility on Broadway and West 135th Street, The Claremont Theatre was one of the first motion picture house to come to the modern incarnation of Manhattanville in 1914. This marble and white terra cotta, Italian Renaissance style building was designed by Sicillian born architect, Gaeten Ajello, who also took credit for many buildings along the Upper West Side. The top photo is a clip from a film shot by Thomas Edison in 1915 in front of the new theatre with what must of been the most high tech camera of its time. There apparently was also a restaurant on the top levels from what can be gathered from the photo. By the depression years, the neighborhood changed and the theatre closed to become a automobile showroom in 1933. Most recently, 3330 Broadway had a few furniture stores and was filmed in a movie as an electronic store. In 2006, the Landmarks Commission gave the building its designation as a historic site so that future generations might enjoy it going forward. As of this week, there seems to be some upgrading in the interior currently so it will be interesting to see what the next incarnation of the space will be. Photos by Ulysses

☞ SEE: The Claremont Theatre Circa 1915

Thomas Edison shot this short film around 1915, in front of Manhattanville's Claremont Theatre, which would have only been one year old at the time. Excited crowds exit the building's front entrance for most of the film but one can get a glimpse of the street and entire facade in the last twenty seconds. The best part of last section of the clip is to actually see the horse-drawn carriages speed by the path of the camera. See our following post for more details on The Claremont Theatre at 3330 Broadway and 135th Street.

☞ REVIVE: The Hotel Theresa Balcony

The balcony on top of the landmarked Hotel Theresa has been going through what looks like an extensive renovation for the most of this year. We assume since the building has landmark status, the building's owner (Columbia University) is doing the right thing and replacing every part exactly to plan. It seems that maybe new steel supports and foundations have been added currently but not much else has been going on this year. Maybe this one will be finished by summer 2010. See our past post on the iconic Hotel Theresa: LINK. The former hotel is on the corner of Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard (7th Avenue) at 125th Street. Take the A,B,C,D or the 2,3 train to 125th. Photo by Ulysses

☞ BESPOKE: Harlem Brownstone Lighting

Lighting is a such a personal thing when it comes to updating a brownstone. We will cover the purist approach with tradtional light fixtures in future post but wanted to focus on contemporary lighting for now. Many folks like historic details in their interiors but are bent on brighter, contemporary lighting throughout. In the 1970's it was fluorescent light, move forward to the 1980's and track lighting became the popular model and then came the recessed lighting that has been the trend since the 1990's.

What is the au courant lighting of the new century? We would have to say its the much more refined, pinhole recessed light. The old 90's version of recessed lighting had each fixture at about the size of a beer can while the more elegant update is a third of the width. The top photo shows the most recent renovations at the Plaza Hotel with pinhole recessed lighting. It's a somewhat bare revival of the original prewar space but one can see the subtle quality of the lighting overhead. The lower photo is the more detail sensitive restoration of a Striver's Row house on the market but the lighting is already outdated with the larger can-sized recessed lighting.

Can't keep up? Then we suggest to stick to classic fixtures for they will always stay in style. What are the best choices? Stay tuned for future post.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

☞ REMEMBER: 467-469 West 125th Street

Walking on 125th Street, heading towards Amsterdam Avenue, one will run into a couple of cottage like buildings that look out of context to the surrounding brick and cast iron buildings The top photo was taken of number 467 and 469 West 125th Street in the 1930's and the lower photo shows the building today. Interestingly enough, the cornice of the roof of both buildings were bowing eighty years ago and has neither been fixed or collapsed. The charming wood shutters are long gone and vinyl siding has been added on to the original brick facade. Comparing the two photos, one looks more like an old saloon from the mid 1800's while the more recent renovation has the feeling of a cottage in the earlier part of that century. Closest subway is the 1 or the A,B,C,D on 125 Street. Lower photo by Ulysses

☞ DWELL: 210 West 122nd Street Brownstone

Once more, a Mount Morris Park townhouse (center building in photo) but this time the price tag is an ambitious $1.99 million. That's actually a good amount of savings from the original asking price of $2.5 million which was only a couple of months ago. The neighborhood and immediate block is charming and the house has apparently been renovated with an owners unit on the first two floors and two rental units above. Mount Morris Park has the most promising retail and restaurant businesses developing on Lenox Avenue so the amenities are not an issue. The only thing is the house is on the narrow side at 15 feet wide, but this might be overlooked because there is so much charm on the exterior of the building. The oriel window out front is one of the best in Harlem. Closest subway is the express 2,3 train on 125th Street. Photo by Ulysses

☞ SHOP: Hormon's Best Pickles

Walking by the farmer's market at Morningside Park this past weekend, we noticed that there weren't as many vendors as usual but it seemed more busy than past summer weekends. The organic vegetable stand is the major attraction here, but we did noticed Horman's best pickles on the corner which looked like it could be a great find for pickle connoisseurs uptown. With new flavors such as spicy sour, horseradish, honey mustard and pickled tomatoes, there's a lot to try out here. Why buy these pickles over others? They are locally grown from upstate so are much more fresh and also better for the environment since they are not shipped from far distances. See our past post on the farmer's market at Morningside Park: LINK. Open every Saturday from 9:00-5:00 from May through December and located on West 110th Street and Morningside Avenue. Take the 1 train or the B,C train to 110th Street. Photos by Ulysses

☞ LISTEN: Marc Cary at the Gatehouse

2012: The Hip Hop Experiment, Saturday night, September 26th, starting from 6 PM at Harlem Stage at the Gatehouse Theater. Dialogue, open bar and live entertainment. All music genres must change and adapt to be current and relevant. So what is the future of Hip Hop? Bandleader and composer, Marc Cary will host a discussion at the Gatehouse Theater which will bring to stage Hip Hop, Soul, Jazz and Electronic artists who are shaping its future. See the full night's list of events and buy tickets on line at the Harlem Stage website: LINK. The Harlem Stage in the Gatehouse Theater is at 150 Convent Avenue at West 135th Street. Tel: 212.281.9240. Take the 1 train to 137th Street. See past post on the Gatehouse Theater: LINK

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

☞ DWELL: Harlem Brownstone Condos at 118th

The sign on 129 West 118th Street advertises for the brand new brownstone condos under way on this landmarked block in Mount Morris Park. With spacious floor-through apartments and duplexes sporting asking prices that start at $700K, it might be a good thing that these are coming up later in the year since pricing is still a bit ambitious. On the other hand, these units will be on a very exclusive block with great brownstone views on a tree-lined street in the heart of the "West Village of Harlem." At the current state, it probably won't be until November at the least for the building to be ready to show. Let's see if the interiors reach any historic proportions. The closest subway is the express 2,3 train on 116th Street. Photos by Ulysses

☞ REVIVE: Harlem Brownstone Cast Iron Colors

While walking around the Morningside Heights border of South Harlem, we noticed how color really affected the iron work of turn-of-the-century buildings. The top photo of a side street in the 120's really shows how typical brownstone blocks can have a dramatic visual effect by adding color. The reliable old standard is black or brown to match the stonework, but we found the cooler colors refreshing to look at. In general, natural stone or certain metals -- such as the green patina of copper, verdigris -- work best as departure points for color. Stay away from purples, indigos or pinks for they usually don't work out on brownstones. The lower photo, taken along upper Manhattan Avenue, shows how limestone-colored buildings often get a boost from lighter hues. The classic creamy whites are always a complement to the pale stone, but softer blues, greens and terra cotta colors also look great. We just see a lot of black or rust red out there, so it's refreshing to see a bit of artistic flair from brownstone owners and co-ops. Photos by Ulysses

☞ MEET: Celeste Beatty of the Harlem Brewery

The beer trade, in the past, has been the stuff of good-old boys, but Harlem's only beer brand today is owned by the very feminine Celeste Beatty. While living in a small, studio apartment on 123rd Street in Mount Morris Park, Ms. Beatty would make $5 batches of beer in her kitchen so that she could use it in her cooking recipes. After some encouragement from friends, Beatty launched The Harlem Brewing Company in 2000 with offices in South Harlem on FDB/8th Avenue. Celeste promotes her beer for drinking but also avidly recommends it to home chefs as an essential cooking ingredient. Look out for the company's signature beer, Sugar Hill Ale, in stores like Dean & Deluca or in local Harlem restaurants and bars. Read more about Celeste in last month's NY Daily News article: LINK

☞ EAT: Alfresco at Native

We have only been to dinner at Native in the past, but the outdoor dining on the boulevard really looked inviting to us while walking by this last Sunday. Located at 101 W. 118th Street at the corner of Malcolm X/ Lenox Avenue, Native is one of the first new restaurants on the block offering contemporary dining. For all of the folks that live in Harlem, we should make it a point to eat at our favorite restaurants during the recession to insure that they will be around in the future, so let's make a lunch date at Native in the next couple of weeks while it's still nice out. Take the 2, 3, B, C train to 116th Street and walk two blocks north on Lenox. Photo by Ulysses

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

☞ DWELL: P.S. 90 Condos Opens Sales Office

We covered the work-in-progress PS90 last month and have been informed the new sales offices are open for those who might be interested. Located at 220 West 148th Street, PS90 is in the process of being redeveloped into a residential development after being vacant since the 1970s. PS90 will feature 75 condominium residences in a mix of studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom homes ranging in size from approximately 700 – 1,640 square feet and in price from $450,000 – $899,000. See our previous post for current photos of the building and our comments on the immediate neighborhood: LINK.

☞ EAT: Talay Becomes Pancho Gringo

Ouch?! The swank Thai-Latin eatery with huge Asian Foo Dogs out front is changing to a Mexican Bistro called Pancho Gringo. Okay, Talay was not perfect. It was a lot of splash with some issues on substance, and management could have been a little better. Also, fusion food is not really the trend these days and the food world is really going back towards authentic cuisine. The majority of new places that are not successful usually missed out on a few details and are behind the times in some way.

All that said, a high-end Mexican restaurant is a good idea, but we are a little disturbed by the name of it. Hey, we all know what the definition of Gringo is. So what are they trying to do here? Entice more Columbia students and food critics uptown or are they trying to scare them away (yes, the name is scary)? The new restaurants in town that are doing well have the food, decor, service and taste level in place. What many of the uptown entrepreneurs do not get is that the food scene is a Manhattan scene, so they must know what is going on downtown to be successful. It might be best to hire some consultants that have worked in successful businesses in other parts of Manhattan before fully getting into this one.

Finally, one should have a proper opening and not hang a fabric tarp on the front of the building to debut a new restaurant. Seriously, what does the huge dragon-like statue out front have to do with Mexican food? Photo by Ulysses

☞ SHOP: N Harlem Boutique on Lenox

N Harlem Boutique, which we like to think of as the Barney's of Harlem, will be opening up in the former Purple Reign space on Lenox. The location is a smart move since their original retail space on 116th Street was a bit overcrowded and lacked charm. We love that the location between 118th and 119th Street on Lenox Avenue is basically in Mount Morris Park and that this part of Lenox will really be happening by fall with all the restaurants, shops and cafes nearby. One thing the boutique might want to look out for is to get rid of the drop ceiling in the former shop. Nothing says "cheap office space" like a drop ceiling and big fluorescent lights. See our previous post on N Harlem and the boutique culture of Harlem: LINK. Photos by Ulysses

☞ SEE: Tracy Reese Spring 2010

A look behind the scenes at the Tracy Spring 2010 fashion show that wrapped up last week (BYTW, that's actress Gabriel Union in the frame). The boutique department store, N Harlem will be carrying pieces from this iconic African-American designer this fall in their new Lenox Avenue location. See more in our other Tracy Reese post: LINK.

Monday, September 21, 2009

☞ REMEMBER: Astor Row circa 1930

Today's Astor Row on West 130th Street has the cool shade of trees covering either side of the street but in the above photo shot in the early 1930's, the trees were mere samplings or not even planted yet on the north side. Another interesting point is that the original colors of the porch were not solid but really cast in two shades of paint for a dramatic, graphic look. We had taken a photo of the only house on the block that still had the original paint scheme earlier in the summer and it unfortunately is one of the houses that need a lot of work to restore its original glory: LINK. Click on photo to enlarge.

☞ READ: Is Harlem the New Brooklyn?

This week's New York magazine compares the lower cost of living in Manhattan and how some folks recently transplanted to Brooklyn might be heading back to Manhattan. Of course, the value in brownstone neighborhoods are the same but Harlem has many more amenities than it did five years ago and the many Harlem neighborhoods are in better shape than they have ever been in the past fifty years. Add in the easier transportation to Midtown Manhattan and the fact that one still has a New York, New York address, many new to Brooklyn might want to reconsider. Go to the New York Magazine article: LINK

☞ DWELL: Tuesday Open House on Astor Row

Open House, Tuesday, September 22nd from 12:00-2:00 PM at 54 West 130th Street. For all those wondering what the inside of one of the famous Astor Row houses might look like, here's your chance. The asking price is for $995K for a porched, red bricked country home on the landmarked block between Malcolm X/Lenox Avenue and 5th Avenue. Closest subway is the 2,3 express train at 125th Street. This one is in similar condition to its neighbor in the above photo except the interior is outdated. Read more about Astor Row in our previous post: LINK

☞ SEE: Tap Dancing at Minton's Playhouse

Another part of the New York Time's coverage on Harlem this weekend was an audio visual presentation that has Omar Edwards tap dancing at the legendary Minton's Playhouse with the Alex Violette Quintette performing in the background. Go see the NY Times video (let the link load for it takes a second to go to the correct video): LINK. The Minton's website at the sidebar also has more September scheduling. Photo by Ozier Muhammad for the NY Times.

☞ WALK: St. Nicholas Park's New Path

Congratulations for all those who worked hard on the new path at the upper tier of St. Nicholas Park. The two year project replaced a dirt road, added a lamp post, had new sod put in place and local volunteers help with planting new foliage. The path is between 133rd and 134th Street for those who are interested in taking a look. 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

Sunday, September 20, 2009

☞ READ: E.L. Doctorow's Ragtime

We mentioned E.L. Doctorow's new Harlem-based book, Langley and Homer, this past week but would like to make a note of one of his must-read novels, Ragtime. Set at the turn of the century, Ragtime focuses on three main families, including a white, upper middle-class, upstate New Yorkers; an immigrant, Jewish family on the Lower East Side; and finally the pivotal African-American family in Harlem. Doctorow blends the true-life "crime of the century" with his fictional families and provides an insightful look on the class struggles of the early 20th century. Read the book, or rent out the movie on Netflix in preparation for the major Broadway revival of the show based on the novel.

☞ SEE: Society Coffee in The New York Times

The slide show feature in the Sunday Times has some great shots of the new Harlem hangouts. Above is a photo Society Coffee at FDB/8th Avenue and 114th Street by Ozier Muhammad. See more of the slideshow: LINK

☞ EAT: Lunch at Chez Lucienne

Support our local new restaurants by dropping by and having lunch at your favorite spots. We decided to check out Chez Lucienne with a visiting friend last week, and the place had quite a few tourists and locals savoring the sunlight and grabbing a bite. What's great are the pocket-friendly lunch prices, which will get one a salade nicoise with a bowl of the soup du jour, which happened to be a broccoli bisque, and some homemade chips. This was not the only choice on the menu, and our friend had the croque madame, which was equally good. All for $10.95, so take advantage of lunch specials and also the weekend brunch. 308 Malcolm X/Lenox Avenue, between 125th and 126th street. Tel.(212) 289-5555. Take the 2,3 train to 125th Street and walk one block north.

☞ READ: Harlem in October's Elle Decor

The October issue of Elle Decor, which should be arriving at the newsstands this week, features a guide to Manhattan and has a notable call-out to Harlem. This 20th Anniversary issue highlights the Studio Museum of Harlem and South Harlem's own Melba's as the must-see places to visit while in Manhattan. The New York Times today also has their tour guide of Harlem as mentioned earlier in the week. Read more on the Elle Decor website: LINK. See the NY Times article: LINK. Thanks to reader Melissa for finding the Elle Decor article!