Thursday, June 30, 2011

☞ REMEMBER: Rhum Boogie circa 1943

A Gordon Parks photo from 1943 shows an establishment called  Rhum Boogie somewhere in Central Harlem but not much has been written about this actual establishment.  From the Deco storefront to the right, one might deduct that the business was right by the Lenox Lounge but the architectural details do not quite match up.  Looking back at some archival photos, we figured out that this was the south side building at The Lafayette Theatre and the establishment would have been just north of Connie's Inn which is visible in our past post: LINK.  The building is actually intact today but a supermarket takes up the space.  Photo via The Library of Congress

☞ DWELL: Selling Out at the Lore Condos

The Lore condos at 261 West 112th Street hit the market back in Spring 2009 and would stall until about a year ago when sales started picking up briskly.  Based on Streeteasy, it now appears that all available units have been sold or in contract.  Overall, 33 units have closed and 4 contracts are currently out at the new construction located west of the lower FDB corridor: LINK.  Recorded sales are reportedly at $645 per square foot while the current contracts are out on units asking for around $781 per square foot.

☞ DRINK: Harlem Tavern Opens Friday

Everyone has been waiting for the announcement that that Harlem Tavern at 116th Street will be opening this week and the debut is now official. Harlem's second beer garden on FDB will welcome guests on Friday, July 1st at 5:00 PM based on signs posted out front of the establishment this morning. After a couple of delays, the holiday weekend appears to be the final date for the Harlem Tavern to arrive.

☞ INTRODUCING: What's up with 303 W. 146th?

There is a stalled condo development on 303 West 146th Street located between Jackie Robinson Park and upper FDB that appears to be mostly finished but has been empty for quite some time. So what's going on with this building.  Doing some research on this building, it seems that the 14 units of the 7-story building were available for sale back between 2006-2007 during the construction phase and nothing sold and therefore the property went off the market.  The entire site was purchased for $2.73 million in April 2010 and now is up for sale this year for the asking of $3.6 million according to Streeteasy: LINK

☞ LISTEN: Last Week for Pop-Up Pianos

The Sing for Hope pop-up pianos have been appearing at uptown parks in the past couple of weeks and will finish up on Saturday, July 2nd.  Most of the pianos invite folks to play a tune by their inspiring custom colors but one standout this year did the exact opposite.  The top photo is that of the instrument at St. John the Divine and there definitely is a Black Swan theme going on which contrasts against the usual brights as can be seen at the lower photo of the Montefiore  Park piano in West Harlem. Check out the Sing for Hope site for a map of uptown pianos which include the Harlem Meer in Central Park, St. Nicholas Park, Jackie Robinson Park and Riverside Park: LINK.  Lower photo by Michael Palma via Sing for Hope

☞ READ: Wall Street Saves Carver Bank

Earlier on in the spring it was announced that Carver Bank was in jeopardy of shutting down because it needed $20 million in fresh capital to stay afloat and now Wall Street has stepped in to save the Harlem institution. Back in April, a Wall Street firm was hired by CEO Deborah Wright to find additional investors and it now appears that they have achieved their goal.  Crain's reports that "Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Morgan Stanley... have agreed to invest $15 million each, while Citigroup Inc. and Prudential Financial have agreed to put in $10 million."  The Harlem-based Carver has been around since 1948 but has been mired with delinquent real estate loans in the recent downturn. Read more in Crain's: LINK

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

☞ REMEMBER: 155th & St. Nicholas circa 1935

There used to be a row striking Victororian "painted ladies" that were located between 153rd and 155th Street on upper St. Nicholas Avenue as the above archival photo reveals.  These wood frame houses appear to have been one of the more decorative ones to have remained during the first part of the 20th century but the photo was taken 3 years before they were demolished.  DOB permits show that the demolition dates to be at around 1938 and there is currently just a parking lot on the site that will soon be the future home of the Faith Ringold Children's Museum: LINK. Archival photo courtesy NYPL

☞ DWELL: 319 Convent Avenue in Contract

The 20 foot wide landmark house at 319 Convent Avenue that arrived on the market within the last month has just gone in to contract as of last week.  Located on one of Harlem's most impressive stretch of townhouses and set at an asking price of  $1.6 million, the single-family home with 3,596 square foot in total seems to have what it takes to get a quick bid in. More photos of the interior after the jump.

☞ REVIVE: Manhattanville 3rd Avenue Tracks

One of the notable historic curiosities at 12th Avenue and 125th Street that many point out are the remains of the 3rd Avenue Railroad tracks embedded in the Belgian stones at the south end of the viaduct. Apparently these tracks will only be a memory going forward since they are in the direct path of new construction. The lower photo shows the site today which reveals that the stones have all been piled up and removed as part of the underground infrastructure work of the new Columbia Manhattanville Campus.

Local historian Eric K. Washington notes that the electric cable car tracks had been established in 1885 as trial route that would be more efficient than horse-drawn transportation.  The 3rd Avenue Railway Company was responsible for most of this new type of transportation uptown in the late 19th century and would expand the system throughout Harlem with this location's successful cable car run:  LINK.  

☞ READ: Uptown Church Welcomes Equality

After some negative press from a church uptown about marriage equality, one important religious institution on the border of greater Harlem has come out and embraced the passing of the bill.  The below press release for Riverside Church was received this weekend just after the historic moment:

"As New York becomes the sixth and largest state in the nation to legalize same sex marriage, Rev. Stephen H. Phelps, Interim Senior Minister of The Riverside Church is praising the New York Senate’s historic passage of the Marriage Equality Bill last night.

“What a great day for all the people of New York State,” said Rev. Phelps. “To love in truth and commitment is both great and difficult. Now we have lifted the legal barriers that had segregated some loves to shadows. Now the dignity of marriage is available equally to all. We are grateful to all the legislators who let wisdom and compassion guide and lead.” Rev. Phelps was among the clergy who applied pressure in Albany in the lead-up to the vote.

The Riverside Church ( is an interracial, interdenominational and international church built by John D. Rockefeller Jr. in 1927. The 1,200-member Riverside Church in Morningside Heights has a rich tradition of providing a forum for important civic and spiritual leaders. Past speakers include: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., President William J. Clinton, the Dalai Lama, Fidel Castro, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela. "

The Daily News covered the contrasting moods between the two churches this past Sunday and Riverside Church notably had a rainbow flag on display during its service: LINK

☞ ARCHITECTURE: El Barrio Firehouse Revisited

It was announced this past December that the landmark, 5-story Victorian firehouse at 175 East 104th Street would be converted into a community media center with three live broadcast and production studios, a large multi-purpose meeting space, a performance space, camera studio facilities along with a broadband training center.  The restored facade just east of Lexington Avenue still has plywood up out front but the interior has recently been revealed and looks quite impressive.  See more photos after the jump.

☞ LISTEN: Ben Williams at the Gatehouse

Wednesday, June 29th, 7:30 PM, Ben Williams & Sound Effect at the Gatehouse, 150 Convent Avenue at 135th Street. Celebrating the release of his debut album State of Art, Thelonious Monk International Bass Competition winner Ben Williams brings his band Sound Effect to Harlem Stage. Join them as they embark on a musical exploration of contemporary times encompassing jazz, soul, pop, hip hop and go-go. Get more information and tickets at the Harlem Stage site: LINK

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

☞ REMEMBER: Lenox and 135th Circa 1920

An old photo of the north intersection of 135th Street and Lenox Avenue shows what that particular block looked like before more modern architecture came along decades later.  The old image from around the 1920s shows a fancier type of tenement building with a rounded corner, a coffee shop at the lower level, the original subway kiosk and even a horse-drawn carriage on the street. This location is where the Schomburg Center sits today and definitely has a more late 20th century feel to it as can be seen in the lower picture. Archival photo courtesy NYPL

☞ DWELL: 371-373 Manhattan Avenue Returns

Selling the former church at 317-373 Manhattan Avenue and 116th Street does not appear to be an easy task even though it has attracted interested parties.  Back in 2010, the nearby mosque on FDB tried to purchase the building when it was up for $2 million.  That deal fell through and the property soon reappeared for the asking of $1.65 million  and went into contract earlier this year in March.  As of last week, the property that consist of two combined townhouses has returned to the market once more for an even lower $1.4 million asking.  The location is near the major parks, subways, Columbia University and the lower FDB corridor so whatever comes along will definitely be a development to look out for.

☞ REVIVE: The 2391 FDB Shop

One of the few remaining Central Harlem buildings with painted signage from a century ago appears to be getting a new store at street level. The corner shop at 2391 FDB/8th Avenue and 128th Street had notable liquor signs up but the truly interesting historic element was the faded grocer sign painted on the brick wall (top photo).  Walking by the corner shop this week, one will notice that the front facade has been demoed and it appears that something new might be showing up.  According to DOB permits, it seems that the old liquor store will be replaced by a small grocer or deli, so life is now imitating art.

☞ SEE: What's Up with Mount Moriah Church?

The last we anyone heard of Mount Moriah Baptist at 2050 Fifth Avenue (between 126th and 127th) was back in last November when the church property was seized and put up for sale. A reader in the neighborhood took a few photos of workers on site yesterday, so what is going on with this historic structure?  Check out the new signage out front of the church after the jump.

☞ DRINK: Weekend Opening for Harlem Tavern

When Bier International opened last year, there were several delays in the opening date and now it appears that Harlem Tavern on 116th is facing the same issues.  The last report on the other FDB beer garden was that Wednesday would possibly be the debut night but another update received via Facebook has confirmed that Thursday or Friday will now be the realistic opening day.  Apparently the final inspection for the tavern happened last night and the South Harlem watering hole just needs a couple of more days to get the last details together.

☞ EXERCISE: Land Yoga Opens on FDB

The latest yoga studio to arrive in Harlem just opened last Thursday along the lower FDB corridor and has an introduction special for those interested.  All new students who register in person at the 114th Street location will get an introductory month of yoga for $108.  Check out the land yoga site for more details: LINK

Monday, June 27, 2011

☞ REMEMBER: Macbeth at the Lafayette

A brilliant production of Macbeth was shown at the Lafayette Theatre back in 1936 that would place Harlem theater on the national stage along with the career of a young, talented director. Orson Welles received some major notoriety by taking this version of Macbeth and setting it in Haiti while keeping to the original Shakespeare script. This play would also be known as Voodoo Macbeth and attract 10,000 locals to line the streets  for the premier night at the 1,223 seat theater. The production would eventually have an extended run and tour the country after its Harlem success.  Photo via Library of Congress

☞ DWELL: Mathison Brownstone in Contract

Soap star Cameron Mathison's Central Harlem brownstone was up on the market in the last quarter of 2009, went rental by early 2010 and now has apparently been put back on the market again at the right time. We had a post up earlier in the month on the 20-foot wide, single-family home that was originally up for $2.7 million back in 2009 and returned as of last month for $2.5 million. It now appears that 4,144 square foot, gut renovated townhouse with a contemporary interior has found an interested party since the contract is apparently out already as of this past weekend.  Check out more photos of the interior in our past post: LINK

☞ EAT: La Fonda Mexican Restaurant Closes

The Deco diner at the corner of 103rd Street and Lexington Avenue has not had a good track record. Three years back, this prime intersection of 103rd Street that faces the subway station, was the spot where Jimmy's Diner started up but apparently the cheap prices did not help sell some reportedly mediocre food.  By January 2010, La Fonda Mexican Restaurant replaced Jimmy's but pretty much left the look of the old diner intact.  Since there are a lot of Mexican restaurants in the area already, it is not really too surprising that La Fonda would eventually close  The retro diner situation is still a great idea but food and service really has to be spot on also for customers to return.  It's an ideal location for East Harlem and a great concept but the right business owner has to come along and make it happen.

☞ READ: Harlem Churches and Theaters

The Wall Street Journal has an interesting article on the many theaters of Harlem and how churches have actually helped save them. Most of these movie houses were opened over 90 years ago and were eventually taken over by churches in the latter half of the 20th century when property was not desirable uptown.  These structures still need a lot of financing to get them in top shape but constant upkeep have kept them standing all these years.

Of those discussed, The Regent (top photo) at 116th Street and ACP opened in 1913 and is probably the most ornate old movie house below 155th Street.  Then there is the multi-cultural Mt. Morris theater located further east on Fifth Avenue which was the location of Harlem resident Milton Berle's first paid public performance (albeit under a legal age).  Some of the less accurately detailed restorations such as the The Lincoln on 135th Street or the Lafayette theater on upper ACP are not mentioned and are also another outcome for Harlem's church owned historic theaters: LINK

☞ INTRODUCING: Jashiki & Llanillo at RFA

Wednesday, June 29th, 5:30 PM-8:30 PM, Hiroshi Jashiki and Ruth Llanillo Exhibition Opening Reception, RFA Gallery, 2075 ACP/7th Avenue, between 123rd and 124th Street.  The RFA Gallery will be presenting the digitally printed Noren screens by Hiroshi Jashiki and paintings by Ruth Llanillo which will run through July 21st.  Regular museum summer hours are Wednesdays -Saturdays from 12:00 PM-7:00 PM.  For more details, call: 212.866.1660

☞ DRINK: Harlem Tavern Opening Delays

The Harlem Tavern at 116th Street and FDB/8th Avenue reported to the New York Post that they were scheduled to open on June 27th but the delays are starting to happen once more. It appears that now Wednesday night on June 29th will be the next tentative date according to their recent Facebook update. UPDATE: Opening has now been pushed to early weekend.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

☞ BESPOKE: The Jazz Age Lawn Party 2011

We write a lot about jazz and fashion in the Renaissance years so taking a trip to Governors Island is a must for the big Jazz Age Lawn Party that happens every summer. The styles of 1920's at the event evolve each season and depends often on current trends.  This time around, the lawn party which features a ballroom floor and a big band was notably the most packed its ever been.  Bill Cunningham from the Times was present once more and this fashion spectator event  brought out the well dressed.

The most interesting mens trends to happen involved mainly accessories and color.  The requisite summer whites where on hand but the gentlemen seem to be layering rich, mid-tone neutrals this year in crisp summer linens. Standard straw boater hats were the norm but a few top hats caused quite a stir amongst the photographers.  Wingtip shoes were the item to watch out for this year and the fancier contrasting colored versions stood out the most.  More photos after the jump.

☞ SEE: Harlem Pride 2011 at Marcus Garvey Park

The eventful Pride Weekend culminated in Harlem with more positive news when one local resident received recognition in bringing the event to uptown.  Harlem Pride is only in its second year and Lawrence Rodriguez (at center, at top photo, in white tee) of Casa Frela Gallery on 119th Street was given a personal Proclamation for Exemplary Service for his involvement in the celebratory weekend by Borough President Scott Stringer, Senator Tom Duane and Senator Bill Perkins.

Mr. Rodriguez's gallery helped launch the first Pride festival uptown last year by his establishment's West 119th Street Mount Morris Park block and has been a constant promoter of art in the LGBT community. There was a lot of media at hand covering this second Pride event in Harlem after some negative press about intolerance by a few locals but all ended well on a peaceful day.

Friday, June 24, 2011

☞ REMEMBER: Before Hotel Theresa circa 1900

An old image taken of 125th Street looking west from today's Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard has one notable building missing at the left side of the street. The Hotel Theresa was finished around 1913, so the above photo of the 125th Street intersection of 7th Avenue must have been taken at the turn of the century.  Other landmarks that are gone include the 8th Avenue elevated train in the distance and the Harlem Opera House which can be seen to the right (with statues on top). Photo via The Library of Congress

☞ DWELL: 329 Convent Avenue Townhouse

OPEN HOUSE: Sunday, June 26th, 1:30 PM-3:30 PM. Another one of those landmark townhouses up on Convent Avenue and 143rd Street is on the market and this one looks like a decorator either lives in it or has been involved with the renovations.  This block has distinctly wide buildings lining both sides  of the avenue and this single-family home is at 20 foot with over 3,524 square foot of space. The historic district is one of the most amazing ones in the city and transportation at the 145th Street commercial corridor is a pleasant enough walk to get to. More of this $2.2 million West Harlem house's interior can be found on the broker site: LINK

☞ REVIVE: Back at the Central Harlem Reno

It's been awhile since any updates have come in on the Central Harlem renovation townhouse but some progress has been made in the past month out front.  The top photo shows the boarded-up exterior as it appeared for many years and now the building has a distinct new look.