Monday, September 26, 2011

☞ REMEMBER: 1890 Park Avenue circa 1935

An old photo of the corner at East 129th and Park Avenue shows a massive mansard building that no longer exist today.  The archival material labels the said building as Gus Hill's Minstrels but there also appears to have been an auto garage at the lower floor.  This section of Park Avenue faces the elevated train tracks on the east side so it would have made sense that there would have been some commercial or industrial use for the immediate area.  Based on DOB records, the entire structure was demolished about four years after the photo was taken and the lower photo shows the gas station that holds court on the corner today.

Berenice Abbott, Gus Hill's Minstrels, 1890-1898 Park Avenue at 129th Street, December 19, 1935, via the Digitial Collection at the Museum of the City of New York


  1. Is it possible that instead of the whole building belonging to Gus Hill's Minstrels, they were simply performing inside? It wasn't unheard of in that time and place in New York to have performance spaces in commercial or industrial spaces, which were often large enough for the demands of theater.

    Then again, this was one of the most established minstrel groups in the country, white or black (this one was white), and perhaps this was their headquarters. Anyone with access to an old telephone or business directory could solve this one, right?

    For more on Gus Hill himself:

  2. I recently came across the full description of the Berenice Abott photo from the MCNY (Abbott File 63)--it mentions that the 1869 building was for a time owned by "Boss" Tweed, who used the upper two floors for political meetings, but that it also was at various times a gymnasium (Jack Dempsey and Gene Tunney trained there) and a jail.

    And according to the museum's description, the street level included, in addition to the garage, a Chinese laundry, a paint store, a drugstore, a produce stand, and a restaurant.