Thursday, August 11, 2011

☞ REMEMBER: Inside Graham Court circa 1915

The famous Upper West Side prewar called the Apthorp was actually the sister building to Harlem's Graham Court and both buildings were built around a central courtyard.  A photo form 1915 shows the actual court of the famous Harlem building located at 116th Street and ACP/7th Avenue.  William Waldorf Astor had the uptown luxury building built back in 1898 and the Apthorp was constructed by 1908.  Check our past post for a more current photo of the courtyard: LINK.

Wurts Bros., 116th Street and Seventh Avenue. Graham Court Apartment House courtyard, ca. 1915, courtesy of the Museum of the City of New York


  1. I love this building and it deserves to be restored to it's former beauty. I have always wondered if it is rental, coop or condo!!! I hope to live long enough to see this great Astor building brought back to full life.

  2. It's a rental. Most of the apartments are stabilized, though. The tenants have generally resisted any renovations because that would mean increases in their rents, so renovation is not likely to happen any time soon.

  3. Highly unfortunate because as I said this is a fantastic building and it's sad to see the gates always locked and it just looks in disrepair. i never understand people who would rather the place be crap so that they don't have to pay a bit more. Just stupid!!

    1. Maybe it's because they can't afford to pay more, man! Don't be so quick to pass judgement.
      Many of the people in the building are on fixed incomes, and wouldn't be able to continue to live in this relatively safe and beautiful environment if the rents were to increase substantially.

  4. HarlemBBC it is indeed not stupid! After the reno some of those people would have to pay perhaps more than seventy-five percent of their income in rent. My building underwent a significant reno job 3 years ago because we agreed the building needed to look nicer to attract a more 'acceptable' tenant. Well three years later, I'm the only one either left, or not in housing court with a potential eviction over their head. I work a second job just to get by. I no longer have cable or a cell phone, just my land line (I only used the cell phone to field emergency calls from my elderly & infirm relatives) and I don't have an ISP, I use the painfully slow land line to access the internet. Broadway shows are out of the question as well as movies and I can't even buy oj unless its on special. I had one of those 529 accounts to save up for grad school and now thats gone.

    I literally work to pay rent! Oh I forgot about Con Ed. I literally live in one room of my apt in order to keep the elec bill down and still the bill is outrageous!

    So I don't blame the Graham Court tenants. Perhaps they could get students from one of the architecture programs to do some of the restoration work and use kickstarter to gain funding like the Pratt Inst kids did. I suggested something like this in my building and was shouted down. They all wanted the building re-wired for hi-speed internet and cable. Ok fine! and out of 20 apts how many of them can now afford hi-speed internet and cable? 3!

    So I guess if its a choice between cosmetic altertions and blight, choose cosmetic alterations, while in your fridge (if you can afford the electricity it costs to run a fridge?) you've got an expired container of Yogurt and a head of lettuce for dinner!

  5. P.S. I do agree with y'all about one thing. I've said for years that the interior court yard of Graham Court needs to be refurbished, more for the tenants than for us in the commmunity as a whole. The people deserve it. Last X-mas they put up a Christmas Tree where the fountain is and thats a good step in the right direction. But damn whats a body to do when everything is against you? roll over and die?

    Over the years I've been inside a couple of apts in Graham Court and they are lovely the way they are laid out and the public conveyances and corridors and such are keep rather well. But, people need to be careful before calling things or people stupid. Think twice and then think twice again. If you can afford to pay 75 per cent of your income in rent for the "privilege" of living in NYC, then Hallejeluiah and pass the plate, good for you, I'm happy for you. But we all ain't able. Having called this stupid and referred to the place as crap is both unfair and shows a lack of insight. Rather than insult them offer a viable solution to their issue.

  6. Although I am greatful for Ulysses and the fine job he does with this blog, I almost wish he wouldn't post these great before photos as it goes a long way to generated rancorous comments and bad discussion that leads no where but to humiliation and heart ache. There is really too much of that in the world. I should know.

  7. I was going to comment that to some, ‘just paying a bit more’ often means the difference between eating and not eating.

    I think Greg has summed it very nicely indeed.

  8. Greg, your points are well taken, however if the roof is caving in and the windows are leaking and letting rain in you are not being sensible to let the rot continue. I was talking about repairs that are necessary. As I said it would be nice to see the old lady back to her full grandeur.

    In no way am I implying that they go and commit to stuff that will drive them out. You have appeared to take this very personally because of your own situation and i respect that, however do not appoint ideas to my comments that are not there. Quite simply the building needs to be repaired and to say otherwise would be irresponsible. Note that water seeping into windows that do not close promote mold which kills. It creates danger because it weakens the structure which can cause collapse and then what good will the great layouts be?

    If you are saying to me that your building was in good shape and the overall community made a decision to undertake upgrades that only drove the cost up then that is the classic human dilemma "wanting more than we can afford". If however your building had structural issues and the upgrades were done then it was a necessary "evil" unfortunately. Are landlords greedy YES but that will not stop me from being an advocate for beautification and preservation of Harlem's wonderful history!!! After all much of it has disappeared because of neglect only to be pined for later.

  9. Point well taken Harlem BBC and you are certainly entitled to that. However, perhaps had your initial statements been finessed differently we would not be having this protracted debate. However, I will stand by my statement. The post about the courtyard was really light and general and perhaps comments should have been left to that. As I had pointed out in recent years I've had the opportunity to be inside a couple of apts in Graham Court and certainly the corridors & hallways appear dull and lackluster due to fading of paint, etc. But structurally it appeared sound. Elevators worked, one could climb steps and not hear creaking, etc. The apartments were fine. Certainly some apts are going to be in better condition than others depending on several factors and thats the case even in the newest of apartment buildings.

    Sheila Bridges lives there and I'm told that Debbie Allen has kept her apartment there as well as Danny Glover (Not sure if Mr. Glover still maintains an apt there or not but in the early 80's he did). Also, a couple of minor politicians live there. Quincy Troupe and his lovely wife live there and hold salons.

    The building had a chance to go Coop several years ago through the city's HDFC program but the internal conflicts kept that at bay. But as far as I know the roof is not caving in and I'm sometimes monitoring the HPD complaints from buildings and don't often see Graham Ct. listed. Yes, work is needed. I don't deny that but some other work has to go on first, its a big building and that will take awhile.

    And as for my building, the roof wasn't caving in although we did put a new roof in place as well as pointing (which was needed badly) and then came the high speed internet and cable tv wiring and the $50,000.00 security camera which I'm told hasn't worked in many months. The work wasn't properly prioritized and now we are suffering. Property taxes were neglected as well as Water & Sewage fees and so now we're in the soup to the city. But, the building "looks" fabulous and if you can afford cable and hi-speed internet and the electric bill to light a five and seven room apt with all the trimmings then this is the place (?) We aren't the grand ole' lady that Graham Court was (is), not even close but we're cute nonetheless and deserve to be cuter, but not at the expense of displacement, going broke, etc. I know my next door neighbor has accessed his retirement savings twice to pay the rent.

  10. I don't take this personally due to my own personal situation its just that I am sensitive to the fact that more and more and more people than we actually know of are being displaced in Harlem in particular and throughout the five boroughs in general and a lot of it is not their fault.

    I volunteer on the hotline at MetCouncil and you should hear whats going on in some of these classic buildings in Harlem. Its unjust and I just happen to be a person who hates injustice.
    The very people in my building who wanted a pretty building, got exactly what they asked for and now they regret it. One of them won't be able to send her kid back to the expensive summer camp this year 'cause that fee equals a little more than a months rent in this building. My God! How far we've come in this community that we've come to this!

  11. I walk by that building every day and can tell you that the 116th side has windows that do not close and look to be rotting, I am no engineer but if I can see that with my poor eyesight then it is bad. I too am no fan of injustices so I do not want people pushed out for the sake of money.

    I will leave my comments at that because I have very strong beliefs on what causes it to be easy to push people out.

    Greg it was a good debate and I learned a bunch from your comments. I hope you are able to hold on to your place.

    By the way Harlem is just catching up with the rest of the city in regards to high rents. It has been this way for most of NYC for years for better or worse.

  12. By the way Greg, I agree with you roof (necessary) Hi-speed internet (not so much). Security cameras (depends) but why go for the $50K version when you can get the basics for much much less? As you said it was not managed well and has now cost the community within.

  13. There is something wrong with this picture, it seems for the comments Graham Court is in a state of decay and most probably due to its residents who refuse to or are not capable of paying the rent increases to maintain this historic masterpiece. I liken it to seeing a beautiful Rolls Royce Silver Ghost being used for public transportation and given the minimum basic cheap emergency repairs, in a state of inevitable demise and headed for the scrap heap, when it should be in the hands of someone with the means to care for it. This building should be housing those with the will and means to upkeep this masterpiece. I fear this will be the corn exchange debacle repeating itself, but with a much slower more painful death. Maybe it should be landmarked so the owner is forced to respect it’s historic and architectural significance, and if the rents have to be raised, so be it.