Friday, March 30, 2012

☞ DWELL: 722 St. Nicholas Avenue

OPEN HOUSE: Sunday, April 1st, By Appointment.  One of the most notable landmark limestone townhouses on Sugar Hill is up for sale at an asking of $1.95 million.  The 18-foot-wide,  2-family building at 722 St. Nicholas Avenue is up on the market and has reportedly over 5,000 square foot altogether.  Current leases expire in the spring so this one can easily be converted into a one family if needed and the location is just right by the express trains on 145th Street.  Check out more photos of the moderately renovated interior and get contact information at the owner's website for the house: LINKs

☞ REVIVE: New Kitchen at Harlem Reno House

The final finishes for the Central Harlem renovation house are all coming together this spring and the newly installed kitchen was almost complete on our last visit.  Custom made white cabinets with classic flat panel doors are accented with subway tiles along the back splash and high end stainless steel appliances.  There's also a guest unit in the building but the above photos of the deluxe new kitchen are of the owner's unit which is probably one of the better renovations we have seen uptown.  At this pace, the house should be done just in time for the the warm weather in the next month or so.

☞ INTRODUCING: Larry's Freewheeling

One of the empty retail spaces over at 301 West 110th Street now appears to have secured a bicycle shop set to debut sometimes in the future.  Signs for Larry's Freewheeling have been posted up at the corner retail just west of FDB/8th Avenue and the new business will offer rentals, accessories and sales.  This will be the second bike shop to open in the area since Modsquad Cycles is located just up the block on FDB and 115th Street: LINK

☞ SEE: Around Harlem this Weekend

Saturday and Sunday, March 31st and April 1st, 6:00AM-6:00PM, Harlem Treasure Chest Flea Market, 117th Street and FDB/8th Avenue.  South Harlem's first flea market arrives just in time for the warm weather.  Check out the offerings from local antique vendors this weekend: LINK

Sunday, April 1st, 3:00 PM, Art21: Identity Focus on Kerry James Marshall at the Studio Museum Theater, 144 West 125th Street. Art21 is a nonprofit dedicated to engaging audiences with contemporary visual art, inspiring creative thinking, and educating a new generation about artists working today. The artists featured in the series represent a cross-section of contemporary art practices and philosophies, and hail from different regions of the United States. The Studio Museum in Harlem has selected four episodes featuring artists also in the Museum's exhibitions, publications and permanent collection: Kerry James Marshall, Layla Ali, El Anatsui and Glenn Ligon. More details and RSVP at the Studio Museum site: LINK

Sunday, April 1st, 8:00PM-11:00 PM, The Shrine Big Band Jazz at Shrine, 2271 ACP/7th Avenue at 134th Street.  The Shrine Big Band is a 15-piece big band, with three trumpets, three trombones, four saxes, flute, piano, guitar, bass, and drums. Come and experience the experimental and hard-swinging sounds every first Sunday of the month: LINK

Sunday, April 1st, 7:30 PM, The Goddess Lakshmi at Paris Blues, 2021 ACP/7th at West 121st. Harlem bandleader René Calvo returns from his winter sojourn on the Dalmatian coast where he completed the first draft of his new rock opera Kepler 22B. He hopes to debut it this spring. Rehearsals are in progress. In the mean time his band The Goddess Lakshmi returns to the legendary Paris Blues in Harlem for it's spring into summer season. The band plays all original compositions that range from wistful folk-rock, pop to whiskey bottle blues: LINK

Thursday, March 29, 2012

☞ REMEMBER: 289 Lenox Avenue circa 1932

The above photo shows the west side of Lenox Avenue between 124th and 125th Street back in 1932.  Today this is the big, grassy open lot that has been gated for some times now just north of the Mount Morris Park Historic District.  The smaller buildings disappeared some times ago while a larger, abandoned structure facing 125th Street burned down a few years back in a fire.  There were talks of possibly a new hotel on this corner of Lenox more recently but nothing much has happened since then.

Charles Von Urban, 289 Lenox ca. 1932 via the digital collection at the Museum of the City Of New York

☞ DWELL: One Left at The Sedona in East Harlem

We always thought that the area just below East 120th, between 1st and 2nd Avenue kind of looked like the East Village before it was gentrified and folks moving into the new construction called the Sedona probably have the same sentiments.   The building at 344 East 119th Street appeared up on the market in fall 2010 and now only one condo is left at the East Harlem development according to the most updated information on Streeteasy: LINK.  One contract is currently out and there are 9 previous sales at an average of  $531 per square foot.

The plus to the area is cost of living is cheap and the new Target seems to be the one-stop-shop for folks new and old.  This development is also FHA approved so down payment is as low as 3.5 percent. On the downside, there's only one major train line towards Lexington so be prepared for a long commute (with a couple of transfer points) if you need to be in midtown.

☞ DRINK: Waiting for Cove Lounge

Cove Lounge at 325 Lenox Avenue was speeding along in its renovations but somehow the adjacent Lenox Social opened at a faster pace in the past weeks.  A liquor license application has been in place for a few months now but not much is happening at the storefront by the corner of West 126th Street.  Cove started its construction several months before Lenox Social appeared on the scene and we are assuming that some sort of legal paperwork might be holding up progress.  Does anyone have any more tips on this new space?

☞ SHOP: More Vacant Retail at 215 West 125th

A Bespoke reader sent in a photo of another retail space over at 215 West 125th Street that has closed recently and wonders if the rent in the area is getting too high for some of the popular fast food chains in the area.  One of the handful of McDonald's on 125th Street apparently has shuttered for good at the modern building located east of FDB/8th Avenue and workers were seen deconstructing the space in recent weeks.   This is also the building where Crumbs will reportedly debut so maybe the type of businesses in the area are just diversifying more. Read about Crumbs' arrival to Harlem in our past post: LINK

☞ INTRODUCING: Here & There Opening Exhibit

Friday, March 30th, 6:00PM-9:00 PM, HERE & THERE Opening Exhibition, 112 West 138th Street, #3F, between Lenox and ACP/7th Avenue. HERE & THERE stands for diversity of approach, view and motivation. Presenting the photography of Lauren Welles, Esther Montoro & Rakel Terceño,the collage work of José Villalón, live music by Stephanie L. Rooker, spoken word by Andrina Smith, & desserts by flour. sugar. love.  More details at the gallery site: LINK

Photograph by Lauren Welles

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

☞ REMEMBER: 131-133 East 122nd Street

A distinct set of row houses used to be located over at 131-133 East 122nd Street as the above photo from 1932 reveals.  What is nice about these two wood frame homes is that there is an open porch connecting the two that provided some additional outdoor space in the warmer season.  These homes were probably built in the late 19th century but by the 1930s, even some of the gingerbread detail had started to deteriorate.  Most of this side of the block between Park and Lexington would have been demolished by the 1950s so the typical nondescript public building from the mid century now stands there today.

Charles Von Urban, 131-133 West 122nd Street, ca. 1932 via the digital collection at the Museum of the City of New York

☞ DWELL: 420 Convent Avenue Townhouse

For those who want a fully restored townhouse in one of Harlem's historic districts, then 420 Convent Avenue might be the one. Located on the corner of 148th Street in Hamilton Heights, the West Harlem single-family home is new on the market with one of the highest asking prices around at $3.5 million.  There's reportedly over 5,400 square foot of space altogether and everything from the infrastructure to the original details have all gone through an extreme renovation in the past two years.  More details on the broker site: LINK

☞ SHOP: Claudio's Relocates on 116th

The local media and politicians tried to save Claudio's Barber Shop from shuttering because of an increased rent issue with a new landlord until a compromise had finally been reached.  Claudio Caponigro had been at the original East 116th Street location (top photo) since the 1950s but when the rent for the storefront tripled about a year ago, many feared that one of the last vestige East Harlem's Italian heritage might disappear soon.  Walking by the block between 1st and 2nd Avenue recently, we noticed that the new shop has definitely opened just a couple of blocks west from the original location.  The interior looks similar to the old one since everything switched over to the new space but somehow the character of the facade is lacking in comparison to the original.  Read more about Claudio's in our past post: LINK

☞ LISTEN: The Billie Holiday Project

Friday April 13th,  and Saturday, April 14th, The Billie Holiday Project at the Apollo Music Café, Food 9PM / Show 10PM, 253 West 125th Street.  At this special event, the performance takes a theatrical turn when two Harlem icons collide in a mix of music and spoken word. Queen Esther and Hot Five perform the relatively unknown yet timeless songs of the jazz siren Billie Holiday and combine them with the newly unearthed urban fables by Zora Neal Hurston. Tickets: $20, Apollo A-LIST advance tickets $15 (available until April 12). By phone call Ticketmaster (800) 745-3000 or

☞ READ: A Night Out at Rao's

New York magazine had a feature on one vegetarian wine critic's night out with friends at East Harlem's famous Rao's restaurant.  As most know by now, the historic restaurant founded in 1896 does not really have open tables since each one is owned by a patron that rarely gives up their seating. The experience here was more about what happens behind close doors since the writer did not eat any of the food and apparently dancing guests appear to be a common occurrence on a Friday night.  Read more in New York magazine's Grub Street: LINK

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

☞ ARCHITECTURE: 46 West 125th Street

A photo from 1955 shows some of the commercial buildings along 125th Street when they were in better condition.  Bold cornices and open bay windows can be seen at the cluster of buildings by No. 46 West 125th Street which is located between Lenox and Fifth Avenue. One can now see in the lower photo that the building still stand today but much of the details have been removed or boarded up.

Archival image by C.T. Brady, Jr., ca. 1955 via the digital collection at the Museum of the City of New York

☞ DWELL: 133 West 119th Street Townhouse

Another SRO adjacent to the Mount Morris Park Historic District has arrived on the market for the asking price of $785K but is only advisable for those who are familiar with this type of building transaction.  The broker apparently has the 20-foot-wide building listed on Streeteasy with the caveat that the townhouse located between Lenox and ACP/7th Avenue will be sold as is.  All certificates appear to be missing or questionably lacking so only those who understand the complexities of SRO purchases should check out this property which reportedly has quite a bit of original details inside to restore: LINK

☞ EAT: Restaurant Month at Miss Mamie's

This is the last week of Harlem Restaurant Month and another restaurant offering a Prix Fixe menu into the early evening is Miss Mamie's Spoonbread Too at 366 West 110th Street and Columbus Avenue.  The sister restaurant to Miss Maude's in Central Harlem serves up 3 courses total including the eatery's famouse fried chicken and has a nice view of Morningside Park. Early birds should check out this dinner special from Monday through Thursday, Noon-8:00 PM while its still around.  More participating restaurants can be fund on the Harlem Restaurant & Retail month Facebook site: LINK

☞ REVIVE: New Plywood Art for 243 Lenox

Now that the corner building at 241 Lenox at 122nd Street has been restored, it would appear that maybe the adjacent brownstone at Number 243 might get fixed up sooner than later.  A Bespoke reader sent in the above photo showing the new plywood fence up on the ground floor of the building that is the last to be restored on the West Side of Lenox Avenue's landmark district.  The owner of the building had hired a pretty creative artist who spent the other weekend painting a mural depicting the local historic blocks and thus beautifying an otherwise unsightly construction site. Scaffolding had been up on the building about a year ago to stabilize it but not much has since happened to the facade since then.  Any tips out there on this one?

☞ INTRODUCING: Art Crawl East Harlem

Art Crawl East Harlem trolley tours, Saturday, April 14th, Noon-4:00 PM Tour, 4:00PM-6:00PM Dinner and Music.  The popular Art Crawl trolley tour of local galleries has now introduced an East Harlem event which will roll out in mid April.  A guided tour of six local galleries and evening dinner event go for $55 and tickets may be purchased on line and the organization site: LINK

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Monday, March 26, 2012

☞ REMEMBER: The Hearn Cliff circa 1910

A photo from 1910 shows the Hearn Cliff apartments up at 154th Street and St. Nicholas Avenue but one of the more interesting points about the image might just be the older houses surrounding it.  One can see that there are quite a few substantial wood frame structures to either side of the building that sits on the northern edge of Sugar Hill.  The lower photo shows that today the Hearn Cliff still stands but all of the original Victorian era houses in the area have since been demolished and have now been replaced by more minimalist, modern structures.

Thaddeus Wilkerson, The Hearn Cliff, New York, Ny, ca 1910 via the digital collection at the Museum of the City of New York

☞ DWELL: 262 West 136th Street in Contract

A Central Harlem townhouse at 262 West 136th Street just arrived on the market at the end of last November and is now in contract at the current asking price of $1.1 million.  At 18 foot wide, this 2-family building located just east of FDB/8th Avenue and a block away from St. Nicholas Park starting out at $1.25 million but had a price reduction once December rolled around.  Everything appears to be in order for those who do not want a major reno project and there seems to be quite a bit of original detail for the classic brownstone.

The only major callout it that the kitchen looks renter's grade and will probably need to be updated by the new owner.  Location wise, the subway is only a block away by the park and the commercial corridors of 125th Street and 145th Street are only a stop away in either direction.  More photos and details on the broker site: LINK

☞ BESPOKE: Inside Ginny's Supper Club

The press for the new lounge under the Red Rooster is out and photos of the interior have been released via New York magazine's Grub Street.  As surmised previously, the entire speakeasy concept of the Prohibition Era has now been updated to a glamorous mid century modern lounge that is definitely more Dream Girls rather than Rag Time.  This style of decor also has a lot of Scandinavian design elements of that period so it would make sense that Chef Samuelsson would have an affinity towards this aesthetic.  Nevertheless, Ginny's Supper Club looks like an updated option for diners uptown and should help ease some congestion upstairs at 310 Lenox Avenue.  More photos of food offerings and the lounge at Grub Street: LINK.

Image courtesy Melissa Hom for New York magazine

☞ SHOP: Royal Pet Care Arriving on Lenox

A Bespoke reader sent in a photo of the new pet shop arriving on Lenox and 119th street at the moment the awning was being installed a couple of weekends back. The location is at the shuttered Jamaican eatery that closed a few years back and looks like it could be a good fit for this Mount Morris Park Historic District strip since there are no specialty shops for pet owners.  Does anyone know if Royal Pet Care has fully opened yet?

☞ MEET: Harlem CDC Home Buyer Workshop

April 5th, 12th, 19th, May 3rd, 6:30PM-8:00 PM,  Home Buyer Workshop Series at the Harlem CDC, ACP State Office Building, 163 West 125th Street, 17th Floor, photo I.D. required.  In 2012, Harlem CDC and Chase are sponsoring a four-part first time home buyer and financial literacy workshop series that will help participants to better understand homeownership as part of a broader financial planning strategy and will focus on matters such as money management, credit, the home buying process, understanding what you can afford and qualifying for a loan.

The workshop series will be offered three times in 2012. Workshop Series I begins on April 5th which reviews basic banking, tracking expenses and savings. April 12th reviews establishing good credit. April 19th reviews finding an affordable home and obtaining a mortgage. May 3rd reviews finding financial assistance and shopping available homes.  The workshops are free and open to the public. RSVP required and class limited to 30 people. Call 212.961.4100 for more details.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

☞ EAT: Ambassades Buffet Becomes Restaurant

About a year ago, Les Ambassades opened up a second location on 127th Street and Lenox but made it a buffet restaurant.  A Bespoke reader noticed recently that the buffet signage has been taken down and that the eatery on upper Lenox will now become a bar and restaurant.  Buffets are quite popular in Harlem but Les Ambassades on lower FDB does quite well as a restaurant so maybe sticking to the original formula might work out better at this new location.

Friday, March 23, 2012

☞ READ: Harlem Brownstone Market Rebounds

The Times had something good to say about Harlem today in a feature that focuses on the rebound in the Harlem Brownstone market. Families and you adults are discovering that one can buy a house at the price of what a 5-bedroom condo would cost in other parts of Manhattan and have noticed the continuing positive changes in the neighborhood.  Price are not as high as the were when the market crashed in 2008 but inventory is now much lower and therefore some properties have seen increases made.  Read more about the turnaround in the New York Times: LINK

☞ SEE: Around Harlem this Weekend

Saturday and Sunday, March 24th and 25th, 6:00AM-6:00PM, Harlem Treasure Chest Flea Market, 117th Street and FDB/8th Avenue.  South Harlem's first flea market arrives just in time for the warm weather.  Check out the offerings from local antique vendors this weekend: LINK

Sunday, March 25th, 7:30PM, Comedy Covo, at COVO's upstair lounge, 701 West 135th Street at 12th Avenue. Come check out the monthly comedy show with some of NYC's best comedians in one of Harlem's most unique lounges (top of a former railroad station). Hosted by NYC comedian William Mullin, this Sunday night show features comics Jessica Delfino, Chris Doucette, Liz Miele, Joel Grey alongside DJ Chris Washington.

This FREE comedy event also features half price panini, $3 beer and $5 drink specials. Covo is located at 701 West 135 Street and 12th Avenue. Tel.(212) 234-9573. Take the 1 train to 137th Street or 125th Street, depending on the direction you are coming from.

Sundays, 7:30 PM, the Goddess Lakshmi at Paris Blues, 2021 ACP/7th at West 121st. Harlem bandleader René Calvo returns from his winter sojourn on the Dalmatian coast where he completed the first draft of his new rock opera Kepler 22B. He hopes to debut it this spring. Rehearsals are in progress. In the mean time his band The Goddess Lakshmi returns to the legendary Paris Blues in Harlem for it's spring into summer season. The band plays all original compositions that range from wistful folk-rock, pop to whiskey bottle blues.  Photo coutesy Paul De Luna: LINK

Thursday, March 22, 2012

☞ DWELL: The Capstone Condos

Nothing much has been happening with the Capstone at 461 West 150th Street in Hamilton Heights since it was up on the market about a year ago. The only information about the building was originally from the architect's website which confirms that the 12-unit new construction has 11,500 square foot in total and includes an elevator.  No more than 4 units at a time have been offered up for the building and the entire development was once up for sale for $5 million earlier this year.  More renderings of the interior after the jump.

☞ SHOP: Replacement for Vinegar Hill Revealed

It now appears that all the rumors about a major drug store arriving at the commercial spaces by West 137th Street and Broadway are actually true.  This corner of West Harlem used to have the Mexican eatery Tres Pasos, the Vinegar Hill sandwich shop and Cafe Largo but all have been shuttered for over a couple of years now. All three shops added an upgraded selection of dining options at this section of West Harlem close to City College's main campus but those hoping that they would reopen in the future will now be disappointed.  At one point, a gourmet deli had announced its future arrival but all three spaces have now been combined for one large Duane Reade store.  There are not too many major drug store in West Harlem so this is actually an okay situation.

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Harlem Bespoke also has a Twitter account for those who want daily updates about stuff that's happening in the neighborhood. If you Twitter, check out our Harlem tweets and join here: LINK.

☞ LISTEN: Sista: A Melodic Tribute at Billie's Black

Friday, March 23rd, 8:30 PM, Sista: A Melodic Tribute at Billie's Black, 271 West 119th Street, $10 Cover. Indie singer/songwriter Collette presents an acoustic soul tribute to womanhood, sisterhood, and everything in between, taking place at the beloved uptown restaurant and bar Billie's Black. Guest vocalists include Abby Dobson and Harlem's own Mika. Also a sneak preview of new music from Collette's upcoming album release:

☞ SEE: Kehinde Wiley World Stage: Israel

For those who missed out on the recent Kehinde Wiley exhibits uptown, another chance to see the works of one of the most respected modern day artist is at hand.  Kehinde Wiley World Stage: Israel will be showing at the Jewish Museum at 1109 Fifth Avenue and 92nd Street. Mr. Wiley has been painting portraits of the African Diaspora throughout the world and the current work represents his visit to Israel. The exhibit will include portraits of Ethiopian and native-born Jews and Arab Israelis along with a selection of objects selected from the Jewish Museum's own private collection.  More details and a short film about the exhibit can be found on the Jewish Museum site: LINK

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

☞ ARCHITECTURE: The Harry Houdini House

Upon becoming successful in both fame and love, Harry Houdini moved into a Harlem brownstone that he would live in until his death in 1926. The house was just completed in 1904 in a predominantly German and Jewish portion of the newly developed neighborhood of Harlem. Houdini bought the property for $25,000 and moved in with his wife Bess. Not only was it his home space, but also his office and work studio. The house still stands today, not too far off from Morningside Park (click on map to enlarge). The Harry Houdini House is located at 278 West 113th Street, between ACP/7th Avenue and FDB/8th Avenue. Take the B,C train to 110th.