Friday, September 28, 2012

☞ DWELL: 123 West 118th Street Townhouse

OPEN HOUSE: Sunday, September 30th, 2:00PM-4:00PM.  There's not too many new houses showing on the market this weekend but the 20-foot-wide limestone townhouse at 123 West 118th Street is definitely worth revisiting for those who value original details.  Almost everything seems to be intact in the roughly 5,000-square-foot, 3-family home but it appears it all needs to have a few updates. Fortunately all of the wood does not have paint on it and the bathroom is one of the most complete ones we have seen Harlem (the bath floors are obviously not original and we would probably just replace them with marble hex tiles).  There's quite a bit of work that needs to be done here for the asking price of $2.695 million but the Mount Morris Historic District is one of the best neighborhoods in Harlem when it comes to architecture, shop proximity and express transportation. More photos and details on Streeteasy: LINK

☞ EAT: Barawine Arriving at 200 Lenox

It has been quite a revolving door of businesses over at 200 Lenox Avenue but apparently the new name for restaurant that will be opening at West 120th Street will be Barawine. A Bespoke reader sent in the lower photo with the announcement which has a different moniker then what the Times reported this past spring: LINK.  Unless a star chef is at hand, most folks uptown want moderately priced restaurants that are not too formal so lets hope the third time is the charm.  Does anyone remember that caviar bar that used to be at this corner about six years ago?

☞ REVIVE: 547 West 149th Update

It was almost a year ago when a group of homeowners at West 149th Street in Hamilton Heights tried to stop the city from the demolition a structurally sound townhouse on the block between Broadway and Amsterdam.  The top photo shows the shell as it stood but last October a wrecking crew appeared with directions from the DOB to tear the building down.  Neighbors rallied and called the owner and it turns out papers had already been filed to stop the demolition months ago since an engineer already confirmed the site as being sound. Somehow the city mixed things up and decided to send the wrecking crew over but folks from the neighborhood association spent hours on the phone to make sure the building would saved.  The lower photo shows the renovated house today but the cornice is still missing because of the mishap.  Check out the full story and the demolition in progress photo from our past post: LINK

☞ INTRODUCING: Common Ground Festival 2012

Saturday, September 29th, 2:00PM-8:00PM, Common Grounds Family Festival 2012 at Morningside Park, 114th Street and Morningside Avenue.  The family oriented Common Ground Festival will be this weekend and will end with the Morningside Light Procession as featured in the above video.  The day starts out with family friendly activities that include pony rides, face painting, balloon art, lantern making, zumba and hip hop dance.  Later in the afternoon, the Swedish Marionette Theatre will have a presentation and there will be a gospel choir performance.  New food trucks will also be on hand this year to provide specialty offerings at the event.  Check out the full schedule on the Friends of Morningside Park site: LINK

Thursday, September 27, 2012

☞ REMEMBER: The Harlem Barber Shop c. 1929

A photo from 1929 shows the all important barber shop in an Art Deco variation somewhere in Harlem during the height of the Jazz Age years.  Original tin roofs are still in place but the pendant lights now have angular curves and linear mirrors line the entire wall to the left.  On the right, smaller deco mirrors are posted behind the gentlemen in waiting while what appears to be hand a hand painted quail motif decorates the worn wooden floors.  Harlem barbers are a little more basic in decor these days but there has been a resurgence of this type of classic barbershop in parts of downtown and Brooklyn over the past few years: LINK

Archival photo courtesy the digital collection at NYPL

☞ DWELL: Better Times for New Developments

Fifth on Park at 1485 Fifth Avenue appears to have gone through the full real estate cycle now that a massive amount of its units have moved and little inventory is left for buyers.  This building facing Marcus Garvey Park at 120th Street probably is a good representative of what has been going on uptown with new construction built on large portions of underused land and how they are faring nowadays.

As most know by now, church owned land was sold off in a deal that would incorporate a new place of worship within the condo development and eventually a 28-story building towered over a neighborhood used to brownstones or low-rise tenements.  This all came about when the real estate market crashed and the Times even reported on buyers trying to get out their contracts in Harlem with Fifth on the Park as the prime example. Naysayers even speculated prices dropping below $300 per square foot or "ghost towers" of finished buildings popping up all over uptown.

Fifth on the Park has now had 142 recorded sales and only has 6 units left with the average price selling at $686 per square foot according to Streeteasy: LINK.  Much of the larger constructions of the past 5 years have sold out or basically have one or two units left.  The challenge now for condo development in Harlem is to find out larger portions of unused land since much of it has been sold off in the past decade. Open lots on 125th Street are prime areas but probably meant more for commercial and hotel use. There are also a few condos that have not been completed such 220 St. Nicholas which succumbed to financing problems so these might be a good option to investigate for new investors: LINK

☞ READ: Harlem Hospital Murals in the Times

Some of the Harlem Hospitals historic murals from the 1930s are digitally replicated on the facade of the institution's new wing but the Times reveals that a gallery within with the actual restored works will let the public see the originals for the first time.  The Mural Pavilion at Lenox and 136th Street will eventually display the works from the original hospital building which took over $4 million to restore.  About $400,000 is still need to finish up the last piece so any charitable benefactors of the arts should read this Times article: LINK

☞ DRINK: Another Lounge for Manhattanville

Bespoke readers have mentioned that signs announcing the arrival of a new lounge have popped up at an old storefront across from Fairway in Manhattanville's commercial corridor on 12th Avenue.  A former beer distribution company at 133rd Street will now be a new establishment called 9A NYC but that is all the information we have on hand now.  This industrial section of West Harlem has slowly transformed with a handful of restaurants and night spots opening in the past years but rapid development has been somewhat stalled by the construction of the new Columbia campus which has demolished many of the buildings.   With that said, any of the businesses that stick around when the university finishes up will probably reap the benefits of the new student population that will flood the area.

☞ SEE: Harlem Water Colors at Settepani

Tuesday, October 2nd, 6:00PM-7:30PM, Harlem - An Image exhibit at Ristorante Settepani, 196 Lenox Avenue at 120th Street.  Local water color artist Lynn Leibermann starts off Art Harlem week by debuting her new series of Harlem buildings, restaurants and shops at Mount Morris Park's favorite Italian eatery in the historic district of Lenox Avenue.  More on the artist website: LINK

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

☞ QUESTION: Ask Harlem Bespoke

If any readers out there have a question they would like to throw out to the Bespoke audience on neighborhood organizations, restoration services, property search or history, just send them over and we can possibly have it written up as a future post:

☞ LISTEN: Open Mic at Lenox Coffee

Thursday, September 27th, 7:00PM, An Evening of Expression at Lenox Coffee, 60 W 129th Street, Harlem and Lenox Avenue. Lenox Coffee is welcoming local talent for an open mic night with performer Anton Nimblett, Poet and Author of the short story collection Sections of an Orange. Open mic sign up starts at 6:30pm. Enjoy the vibe, the folks and eats!  More details on Lenox Coffee can be found on the coffee shop's official Facebook site: LINK

☞ SHOP: Sushi Chain Coming to Harlem

A sign has gone up on the shop under renovation at 125th Street between ACP/7th Avenue and Lenox that has now announced the arrival of Sarku Japan.  A quick online search shows that Sarku is the largest take out sushi chain in the states and thus maybe a good fit for the more affordable commercial element of the 125th Street corridor. More details on Sarku Japan can be found on the sushi franchise's official website: LINK

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

☞ CONTACT: Got a Harlem Bespoke Tip?

Send any tips and especially photos over our way if you have stories on your section of Harlem:

☞ REMEMBER: The Harlem Newsboy c. 1943

Gordon Parks' Harlem Newsboy photo taken in 1943 is probably one of the more joyful ones in a collection images taken uptown during the post depression years. Mr. Parks was a pioneer African-American photographer for Vogue and Life magazine but was mainly known for capturing images that relayed the struggle of poor classes in the city. A collection of Gordon Parks work is currently being shown at the Schomburg and another group of photos will debut at The Studio Museum later in November.

☞ DWELL: Ellison Townhouse Reduced

The former home of Ralph Ellison at 749 St. Nicholas Avenue and 147th Street originally appeared on the market in spring for $1.9 million and now has been reduced to $1.8 million.   At 19-foot-wide, the multi-family townhouse is of generous proportion but appears to have been gut renovated with the goal of remaining a rental building. On the exterior, the front bay window was removed some time ago along with an original stoop which slightly detracts from the beauty of arched window at center.  The price is probably for an investor to come who will not do much else to the facade but we can only dream that this Sugar Hill landmark will be restored completely one day. More details and photos can be found on Streeteasy: LINK

☞ REVIVE: Other Harlem Icons to Bring Back

Lenox Lounge might not be able to sell its name off anytime soon since their is a court case that has to be resolved with the landlord of the build and that has us wondering on what other revivals could be an alternative option for interested restauranteurs.  Marcus Samuelsson proved that Harlem still has its allure by resurrecting a tiny, long gone speakeasy called the Red Rooster into a much bigger destination restaurant and nightclub in Central Harlem.  Many small historic business uptown have folded over the decades but if the right investor comes in, they too could have a chance of returning in a big way.

History is an important element here and restaurants like M&G Diner on West 125th would be our top choice.  There should probably be a different location to make it a bigger venue but the old neon signs would definitely bring the memories and fans back to this old soul food joint.  Sherman's Bar BQ used to be a big chain in Harlem but the last outpost shuttered recently and would be another good option.  Reaching further back, we would maybe pick a renaissance eatery such as Tillie's to restore some of the nostalgic romance in the dining scene.

All of the restaurants could incorporate jazz into the mix but what about actual jazz spot?  St. Nick's Pub appears to need and investor in a big way and this is the first one to come to mind.  Minton's was reportedly opening again with the aid of a major banking executive but that has yet to happen.  As far as Renaissance spots go, Small's Paradise and the Savoy could be interesting to bring into modern times but in a more period appropriate fashion than what Cotton Club is today. Lenox Lounge is a great option to have as the next big thing since it already has extensive Art Deco details intact and any new revival will seriously have to spend some money on getting the old aesthetics right.  Any other suggestions out their for a good Harlem revival?

☞ INTRODUCING: First Look at Mother Hale Depot

A Bespoke Twitter follower sent us the top photo of the new building rising on 145th Street at Lenox Avenue and asked if this was some sort of mall rising in Central Harlem.  This new building is actually the new 400,000-square-foot Mother Clara Hale Bus Depot that will apparently have a green roof on top of the building.  The structure appears to be making some major progress and folks should expect everything to wrap sometimes in 2013.  Check out the architectural sketches in our past post: LINK

☞ SEE: Growing Up Gonzales

Growing Up Gonzales at the Poet's Den Theatre, 309 East 108th Street between 2nd and 1st Avenue. Felix Rojas dramatic comedy about two very different brothers and their experiences growing up in the Bronx during the 1970s comes to East Harlem in October.  Previews start October 18th and tickets can be purchased online at the official website of the play: LINK

☞ FOLLOW: Harlem Bespoke Via Twitter

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.

Monday, September 24, 2012

☞ DWELL: 517 West 152nd Street Goes Rental

A West Harlem townhouse that formerly belonged to Dance Theater of Harlem founder Arthur Mitchell has gone rental after initially being price at $2.5 million just over a year ago.  By December, the asking was reduced to $1.975 and the home was taken off the market in June of this year.  This 20-foot-wide townhouse now has the 3 bedroom garden duplex up for rent at $3,400 a month. As far as the immediate area is concerned, there's not too much happening in the better amenities area but the Dance Theater of Harlem is on the next block over at Amsterdam and the C train is about a 5 minute walk away. More photos and details can be found on the broker site: LINK

☞ QUESTION: Dual Fuel Heating Conversions

We received the below question from a Bespoke reader about heating system conversion for older buildings:

"I am on the board of my co-op and we are in the planning process to convert our heating system to dual fuel (natural gas & heating oil). Do you know if there are any local resources (tenants associations, business improvement associations) in the area that might be a knowledge resource? Perhaps someone has a forum online somewhere to swap information on how to manage ConEd or the process? I've poked around on a number of websites and asked around in the community but am having very little luck. Since you guys always seem to know what is going on in the neighborhood, I thought perhaps you may have heard of something."

 Does anyone have any resources to recommend?

☞ LISTEN: Jazz Vocal Competition at Dinosaur

Sunday, September 30th, Seating at 5:00PM, competition begins at 6:00PM,  Jazzmobile's Vocal Competition at Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, 700 West 125th Street at 12th Avenue. Eight finalist will be competing for this year's cash prize and the title of "Best of the Best" Jazz Vocalist courtesy of Jazzmobile.  $10 cover with a $20 table minimum per person. All seating is communal.  RSVP and get more details on the Jazzmobile site: LINK

☞ MEET: Coffee Bark at St. Nicholas Park

Saturday, October 6th, 9:00AM-11:00AM, Coffee Bark at the St. Nicholas Park dog run, St. Nicholas Avenue, closer to 136th Street. Coffee Barks are monthly events for dog owners to meet one another, and discuss issues and volunteer opportunities in the dog run. Coffee Bark is held on the first Saturday of the month at the St. Nicholas’ Dog Run. Coffee, donuts, and other refreshments are provided: LINK

☞ SUBSCRIBE: Harlem Bespoke via Email

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Friday, September 21, 2012

☞ DWELL: 19 West 127th Street Brownstone

OPEN HOUSE: Saturday, September 22nd, 1:30PM-2:30PM.  The 18-foot-wide house at 19 West 127th just arrived on the market and is currently listed for $1.489 million.  This 4-family home pretty much has a renter's grade renovation with no major frills but is located on a brownstone block between 5th Avenue and the quickly developing upper Lenox corridor. Express trains at 125th Street are only a few minutes away as well as the shops found on that commercial corridor. More details on Streeteasy: LINK

☞ ARCHITECTURE: Ornate Harlem Brownstones

Downtown Manhattan has a lot of townhouses in the more simple styles since they were built much earlier in the 19th century but by the time Harlem was developed, things became a little more ornate. Walking around the West Village, one will notice mostly brick Federal and Greek Revival houses or Italianate brownstones which have lost some of their original facade details.  Many of Harlem's great brownstones are of the Queen Anne or Renaissance Revival variety which was popular in the late 19th century.  The above photo shows some carved bay windows on Convent Avenue in Hamilton Heights which has one of the widest of assortment of ornate brownstones uptown.  Another landmark neighborhood with similar architecture would be the Mount Morris Park Historic District on Lower Lenox which is also worth checking out.

☞ EAT: Buttermilk Drop Bakery Coming to Harlem

The Times has an interview with baker-turned-actor Dwight Henry who apparently plans to open a new store in Harlem sometimes in the near future.  Mr. Henry specializes in "crunchy-fried buttermilk drop doughnuts" and apparently was serving them up on film set and got a part in the said film.  After finishing up on a second production, the baker has now decided to open up a branch of his new Orleans shop uptown.  Read more in the Times: LINK

☞ DRINK: Harlem Public is Now Open

A friend over in West Harlem mentioned that the Harlem Public appears to be open so we dropped by the highly anticipated bar over at Broadway and 149th Street last night.  This area of Broadway usually shuts down by early evening but at 8:00 PM, the new watering hole was bustling with locals that packed the place fully.  Everyone from the neighborhood appears to have shown up for the arrival of the drinking establishment and the crowd was pleasantly diverse.  Off-duty firemen, locals who grew up in the neighborhood, grad students from Columbia,  and also a good amount of the gays from the area were represented.

The kitchen is not up and running yet but free popcorn was on hand to accompany the beers on tap which all were $5.  As far as atmosphere goes, the interior is filled with warm wood, pendant lights, tile work and even has a 19th century hip element to it with a wall full of antique, framed pictures.  Harlem Public appears to have the right look alongside the right pricing to appeal to all demographics in the neighborhood and could be a sign of better things to come over in Hamilton Heights.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

☞ SEE: Around Harlem This Weekend

Friday, September 21st, 6:00PM-8:00PM, Indie Short Films at La Maison d'Art Gallery, 229 West 132nd Street, between ACP and FDB. La Maison d'Art is a Central Harlem brownstone bed and breakfast which also has an art gallery with curated events.  New films from various other directors will now be shown in September which are all free to attend. In a couple of weeks, The Bronx Belletomane will have a screening with director at hand. There will also be live Jazz throughout the month with a $10 suggested donation.  See the full schedule for the gallery at La Maison d'Art: LINK

Saturday, September 22nd, Octoberfest at Bier International, 2099 FDB and 113th Street.  Bier International was the first to bring Octoberfest to Harlem and they do it in a big way with a whole pig roast right out front in the early evening.  Check out the Facebook site for more updates: LINK

Saturday and Sunday, September 22nd and 23rd,  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

Saturday, September 22nd, 9:00 AM-5:00 PM, The Morningside Park Farmers Market at 110th Street and Manhattan Avenue. Drop by the corner of 110th and Manhattan Avenue to check out what's in season at the Morningside Park Farmers Market. These local markets only grow and improve with community support so make sure to visit each Saturday: LINK.

Saturday,  September 22nd, 8:00 AM-4:00 PM, The Mount Morris Park Historic District Farmers Market at 122nd Street and Lenox. The Mount Morris Park Historic District Farmers Market returns for 2012 at a new location right on Lenox Avenue.

Saturday, September 22nd, and Sunday, September 23rd at 3:00PM, Faux-Real Theatre: Jason & The Argonauts at the Morris-Jumel Mansion, 65 Jumel Terrace between 160th and 161st Street.  Faux-Real Theatre: Jason & The Argonauts With the goal of making classical theater dynamic, relevant and just plain fun, the Faux-Real Theatre Company (FRTC) in cooperation with the Morris-Jumel Mansion presents a Greek classic. The event is FREE and no advanced registration is required: LINK

☞ DWELL: Selling out at the Beacon Towers

The Central Harlem cooperative called Beacon Towers has now appeared to have sold out after being on the market for a couple of years. This eight-story development, located at 29 West 138th Street between Lenox and 5th Avenues, is comprised of 73 residences and the last two units are in contract according to Streeteasy: LINK.  Apparently the low down payments at 3.5%  financed through The State of New York Mortgage Agency (SONYMA) loan program and 25 year tax abatements helped this new construction become a success story in Central Harlem.  More details at:

☞ SHOP: Bespoke Pies at Harlem Shambles

The bespoke butchers at Harlem Shambles have added prepared food items to their offerings as promised.  Walking by the shop at 2131 FDB/8th Avenue by 115th Street, we noticed that the local meat shop is now advertising their savory pies but have yet to try one.  This local specialty store prepares everything on site and offers a selection from local farms.  Has anyone tried any of the prepared items?  More details can be found on the Harlem Shambles Facebook site: LINK

☞ REVIVE: 243 West 120th Street

Walking by the shell brownstone at 243 West 120th Street over by St. Nicholas Avenue, we noticed that things are starting to look up for the townhouse.  The facade has now been completely restored with a striking coat of grey paint, a refurbished cornice and new windows. Scaffolding is still up on the building seeing that the interior work will probably take some time but apparently the former SRO will be a 2-family home when all things are finished.  Check out what this townhouse sold for an how it originally looked in our past post:  LINK

☞ SEE: Murals at Manna's on 125th Street

A Bespoke reader provided a tip about the murals that went up at Manna's soul food on 125th Street by Lenox Avenue.  This popular chain of uptown buffets have had different visuals for the various locations in the past but we particularly like this building since it still has the look of old Harlem and now the painted mural provides a nostalgic aesthetic to the building.  Surprisingly enough, Manna's was actually started back in the 80s by a Korean immigrant who knows how to cook with a southern flare: LINK

☞ INTRODUCING: Art in FLUX Fall 2012

Art In FLUX Harlem continues the pop-up gallery concept at the Morellino on 118th Street and ACP/7th Avenue with a new fall exhibit which just opened this week and will run until October 26th.  “Bedtime Confessions”: an exhibition of sculpture featuring the work of Leah Poller and Carlos DeMedeiros in a debut marriage of subject and style. The small-scale beds expertly sculpted by Leah Poller are a perfect foil for the intriguing mixed media miniature confessionals by Carlos DeMedeiros.

Each artist tells a story. Not just their own story, but one that we all share in the same way: A narrative of myth and mystery. Together, their three dimensional fables of visual drama and imagined conversations blur the boundaries of art and theatre. Leah's works are visual metaphors for the bed in all its literary and imaginary iterations, ranging from the lyrical to satirical, the ironic to iconic, the lovely to licentious, and the humorous to dark.

The tales that Carlos tells us are personal in a visceral way. His colorful and complex confessionals made from found objects tap into our religious memories, whatever the persuasion. Then, as if with unseen intervention, the visual strength and sincerity of his work amplifies our response to it. Gallery Hours: Sept. 19 – Oct. 26, Wed-Sat, Noon to 7pm and Sun, Noon to 5pm. For more information on this exhibit, go to: 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

☞ DWELL: 233 West 139th Street Reduced

Number 233 West 139th Street on the landmark blocks of Strivers Row has been on the market for the past year at $1.625 million but has recently reduced the asking price to $1.55 million The single-family house designed by notable architects McKim Mead and White is a generous 19.25-foot-wide, 4,064 square-foot-home appears to have a good amount of original details intact.  There's not much happenin in the immediate residential blocks but this historic district is one of the most breathtaking in town.  Then there's the fact that a private garage is usually included in these homes since they all formerly had carriage stables attached to each one.  More details can be found on the broker site: LINK

☞ SHOP: Signs up at Vinateria

The corner of FDB/8th Avenue at 119th Street saw a bit of action at the storefront on the south side and now signs are up announcing the arrival of Vinateria.  Looking into the interior, one will find a completely gutted space so everything basically has to be installed at this point in time.  It will be a challenge to make this a warm and inviting space since original details such as tin ceilings do not exist in the space.  To keep up with Vinateria, check out the eateries Facebook site: LINK

☞ REVIVE: The Harlem Edge Exhibition

The Harlem Edge Exhibition just released this video about the efforts of architects to come up with new ideas for the abandoned marine transfer station on the Hudson at West 135th Street.  Visionaries in the community have always wanted to reclaim the waterfronts of the city since they were used extensively for the public in the past and several architects have come up with winning ideas to achieve this goal. This exhibition will be at downtown's Center for Architecture which is located on 536 LaGaurdia Place and will be shown up until the end of October: LINK.  All of the winning sketches can also be reviewed online: LINK

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

☞ SEE: Theatre at the Morris-Jumel Mansion

Saturday, September 22nd, and Sunday, September 23rd at 3:00PM, Faux-Real Theatre: Jason & The Argonauts at the Morris-Jumel Mansion, 65 Jumel Terrace between 160th and 161st Street.  Faux-Real Theatre: Jason & The Argonauts With the goal of making classical theater dynamic, relevant and just plain fun, the Faux-Real Theatre Company (FRTC) in cooperation with the Morris-Jumel Mansion presents a Greek classic. The event is FREE and no advanced registration is required: LINK

☞ FOLLOW: Harlem Bespoke Via Twitter

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.

☞ REMEMBER: 150th and Convent circa 1932

A photo from 1932 shows the intersection of Convent and 150th Street as it originally stood.  Today, the corner building has been demolished and replaced by a modern building while the remaining cottages sport modern green faux stone, vinyl siding.  Check out our past post to see the corner building today: LINK

Archival photo courtesy the Museum of the City of New York