Friday, March 29, 2013

☞ REVIVE: A Wood Floor Update for the Bath

There is a certain charm to having wood floors in the bath (or kitchen) in a classic interior but this is not always practical for many reasons.  A classic bath like the one at the top photo has white ceramic glazed tubs or even a console sink which contrast nicely against a rich wood surface.  Even with a coat of high gloss clear coat, the floors will eventually warp if any water sits on the surface for a long period of time.  A modern remedy that we have seen at some cafes in the city is the ceramic tile that looks like wood flooring as shown in the lower photo.

What is nice about the faux wood ceramic tiles offered these days is that they are practical and aesthetically pleasing to look at.  Wide planks add to the rustic quality and staggering the layout brick house style will help further create the illusion of natural flooring.  Ceramic tile is easier to install than traditional wood flooring and more durable than floating floor surfaces.  We have not seen any Harlem renovations with this new material but hopefully some homes will make this tasteful choice instead of the standard square tiles.

☞ SPONSOR POST: Harlem Open House Expo

Next Saturday and Sunday, April 6th and 7th, 9:30AM-3:00PM, The Harlem Open House Expo, meeting at The Corner Social at Lenox and 126th Street.   Those interested in buying a townhouse or condo uptown should check out The Harlem Open House Expo next weekend.  This spring event starts out with a complimentary continental breakfast at the Corner Social from 9:30AM-10:45AM and continues with several home tours:LINK

☞ READ: Community Rallies with Chipped Cup

There is a story that received coverage from New York magazine because one Facebook users threatened the Chipped Cup in Hamilton Heights on their support for marriage equality. An equality sign went up on the chalkboard out front of the coffee shop at 149th at Broadway yesterday and was posted on Facebook.  An offended individual then responded by posting that the java joint just lost a customer. The Chipped Cup responded, " Thank Goodness." Then the said customer threaten to bring negative publicity upon the popular coffee spot and ended up calling them hateful on Yelp and ranting on twitter.

In response, The Chipped Cup has had major media attention, received almost 280 likes on their Facebook post dealing with the matter and apparently gained several more customers than the one lost: LINK

Thursday, March 28, 2013

☞ REMEMBER: The Winthrop Hotel circa 1905

A photo from 1905 shows the Winthrop Hotel that used to stand over on a corner of 125th Street before a more modern structure would arrive about eight years later.  Today the Hotel Theresa now stands as the local landmark on the southwest corner of 7th Avenue and 125th Street but now serves as office space for Columbia University.  The Theresa opened in 1913 and was considered the tallest building in Harlem for many decades after.

Archival image courtesy the Museum of the City of New York

☞ BESPOKE: An Affordable Yet Stylish Sleeper

The New York Times talks to one former Chelsea interior designer who has moved to a more spacious Harlem apartment on the subject matter of sleeper sofas for house guests.  Even though the aforementioned designer moved from his cramped downtown apartment, saving space was still always on his mind.  Therefore, a list of recommended sofas from national chains were mentioned but we thought the one from Urban Outfitter offered something with a little more character and was under $800 which was several times cheaper than other models mentioned.  There are also more modern options shown in the Times article for those who want to spend over $1,000 for a small sleeper sofa: LINK

☞ INTRODUCING: New Juice Bar on FDB

A couple of Bespoke readers have mentioned that a new sandwich and juice bar will be coming to FDB/8th Avenue.  A photo submitted in this week shows the new awning which touts the arrival of Destiny Sandwich & Juice Bar which appears to be more on the casual side.  This corner by FDB has a few established businesses and it is refreshing to see that some of the smaller shops can still afford to set up in the area.

☞ CONTACT: Got a Harlem Bespoke Tip?

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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

☞ MEET: Coffee Bark at St. Nicholas Park

Saturday, April 6th, 9:00 AM to 11:00 AM, Coffee Bark at St. Nicholas Park by St. Nicholas Avenue, closer to West 136th Street.   Coffee Barks are monthly events for dog owners to meet one another, and discuss issues and volunteer opportunities in the dog run. They are held on the first Saturday of the month at the St. Nicholas' Dog Run from 9:00 AM to 11:00 AM. Coffee, donuts, and other refreshments are provided. Those interested in volunteering at the dog run who would like to join the mailing list should send an e-mail to

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

☞ REVIVE: Belgian Stones in Manhattanville

The majority of the Belgian stone roads along 12th Avenue have been covered up because construction activity related to Columbia University's expansion over in Manhattanville but some of the old stonework has recently been restored. Walking by the most south end of the landmark viaduct this past week,  we noticed workers installing Belgian stones on the dirt hill were that structure ends.

This will definitely make this corner a little more finished but we still think that the original Belgian stones along the main streets in the area conveyed old industrial New York in a manner similar to the Meat Packing District downtown.  If only the city had more vision, then maybe one day some more of Manhattaniville's original street can be restored to bring back a little nostalgic charm to this section of West Harlem.

☞ QUESTION:What's Up with the Broadway Malls?

A Bespoke reader mentioned that the trees along the Broadway Mall median in the 140s all had braces up on them this morning. Does anyone know what's going on?

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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.

Monday, March 25, 2013

☞ REMEMBER: Jewish Harlem circa 1929

A James Van Der Zee photo from 1929 show the diversity of the Jewish community established uptown. Before the roaring 20s, most of the synagogues uptown would have been built by the predominantly white community that set up roots in the new Harlem. As Central Harlem became the destination for the African American community, small storefront temples of worship would have been established like the one depicted on a tenement block at 127th Street. The building still stands today but there is little left to indicate its prior use and thus this photo is an important record of how Harlem has transitioned many times over the decades.

☞ EAT: Harlem Tavern Expanding to the Heights

A sign up at the Harlem Tavern over on 116th Street has now announced that the popular beer garden in South Harlem will expand to Washington Heights at 3910 Broadway by 164th Street.  This new venture will be called the Heights Tavern and will not be located at an old gas station site which made the FDB location so unique.  Washington Heights has very limited better dining options and now it appears that this Harlem establishment will test the market out further uptown as it did a few years back in Harlem.

☞ LISTEN: Ngoma at Lenox Coffee

Thursday, March 28th,7:00PM, Ngoma at Lenox Coffee, 60 West 129th Street. Multitalented musican/poet Ngoma is this month’s featured reader/performer at Lenox Coffee. All are welcome at this free evening of poetry, prose, music and fun. Great vibes, good eats and cool folks! Open mic sign-up at 6:30pm or online at

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Friday, March 22, 2013

☞ BESPOKE: The Lady and the Dragon

Walking by one of the blocks adjacent to the Mount Morris Park Historic District, we recently noticed some great stonework on one of the townhouses. A female classical form is detailed within a bas-relief carving in front of a bay window and below the figure one can also see a dragon. We have seen lions, gargoyles and griffins but not this combination in Harlem.  Does anyone know the symbolic meaning?

☞ INTRODUCING: New Banister on 126th Street

A Bespoke reader has informed us that an investor purchased the run down SRO at 27 East 126th Street a year ago and everything is in the final stages of a complete renovation.   Our block watcher on East 126th Street mentions that it was fortunate that the said investor apparently has good taste and decided to replace the old banister with a replica of the same style!  Also...The original front door has been sanded/primed and ready for a new coat of paint.  With this sort of attention to detail in restoration, there will probably be some decent market rate apartments appearing soon as rentals.

☞ BESPOKE: Classic Renovation Resources

It's time for spring  renovations in the new year and those interested in getting that accurate brownstone update should check out our Harlem Bespoke resource page: LINK

☞ DONATE: The Gettysburg Story via Harlem

Harlem director Jake Boritt is finishing up a new film - The Gettysburg Story for public television. This new documentary uses cutting edge technologies – including high definition radio control aerial drone cinematography, motion control time-lapse footage, dynamic digital geolocation graphic maps, and more – to capture the battlefield as never seen it before. The film is narrated by Stephen Lang (Gettysburg, Avatar). The Gettysburg Story will be broadcast on public television this summer and a Kickstarter campaign has been set up now to add more on to the post production work.

Those donating $150 reward on the Kickstarter campaign will be invited to the Sneak Preview. See a super secret special screening of The Gettysburg Story in the production team's studio space in Harlem and also discuss the film with the filmmakers. Plus a locally sourced dinner will be curated by the Highlands Dinner Club. PLUS all of the previous rewards. Get more details and donate here through Kickstarter: LINK

Thursday, March 21, 2013

☞ ARCHITECTURE: Wood Frame House Hues

An old Victorian era wood frame house presents a great opportunity in the usage of color as far as the front facade is concerned.  There are not many nicely restored example in Harlem so we checked out the Wooden House Project blog of Brooklyn for some inspiration since that New York neighborhood has many examples of elegantly restored homes.  Contrasting white trim appears to be the standard way to go to make a frame houses look a little more updated for the modern home owner.   Colors beyond the classic blues and slate grays include rich khakis or neutral mid tone pastels such as the green home in the top image.  While more matte finishes are preferred for the wood siding or shingles, one can actually go for a high gloss finish on entrance doors with rich accents such as the vibrant red shown at the lower photos.  More examples can be found at the Wooden House Project: LINK

☞ DWELL: 200 Edgecombe in Contract

We had a review on the rare wood frame house at 200 Edgecombe a week ago and now that townhouse in contract. Harlem has very few wood frame houses remaining and 200 Edegcombe Avenue had just arrived on the market last month for $850K (top photo).  The 2-family home has been gutted and the interior frames have been set up but plumbing, electrical, and new walls will have to be added along with the new interior details. Part of the work is already done and the location is just below the 145th Street commercial hub by Jackie Robinson Park.  Express subways are less than a five minute walk away.  Check out what  the interior looks like on Streeteasy: LINK

Properly restored wood frame houses like the Brooklyn one seen in the lower photo is a rare site uptown.  A contrast wood siding color along with white trims (cornice, window frames, door details) add to curb appeal and all will have to be replaced for the Edgecombe home to be brought back to its original glory.  Property with part of the work finished and going for under a million have been selling quickly in Harlem this year and hopefully the new owners will restore this one correctly if they want to maximize the home value.

☞ INTRODUCING: Sushi Sushi on Tiemann

The new sushi shop in Manhattanville is quickly making progress and the quality of the establishment is still in question.  An awning with Sushi Sushi printed on it has recently arrived which conveys a straightforward name albeit not a very compelling one.  With that said, the wood storefront has been restored nicely and we still have hopes that this will be a nicer dining option where within one can sit down and enjoy the ambiance.  This location just below 125th Street off of Broadway is around the corner from the popular Jin Ramen shop and thus can be an ideal spot for new asian fare if all is done right.

☞ CONTACT: Got a Harlem Bespoke Tip?

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

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

☞ BESPOKE: Eyewear at Harlem Haberdashery

Harlem Haberdashery over on Lenox Avenue at 122nd Street has been featuring local designers and Harlem label 5001 FLAVORS has debuted a new eyewear collection this past week. Celebrity chef and new Mount Morris Park Historic District resident Marcus Samuelsson made an appearance to show support at the event which showcases the two limited editions eyewear designs available in an array of custom colors. Check out the full line at:

☞ INTRODUCING: Harlem Public Outdoor Seating

Harlem Public on Broadway at 149th Street has been opened less than a year but the new pub has rolled out a new outdoor seating setup in preparation for the warm weather ahead.  There are not any tables out yet because winter has been very persistent as of late but expect this area to be crowded with locals enjoying the nice weather in the weeks to come.

☞ EAT: New Frozen Yogurt Shop On Lenox

It was reported last year that a European style frozen yogurt cafe will be opening at the old N Boutique location on Lenox and it appears that this will be happening very soon. We walked by this section of the Mount Morris Park Historic District right by 118th Street and saw the sign posted up announcing the arrival of Pa-paya seed.  From what can be found on the website, this new dessert spot will just be another modern yogurt shop and not a boutique type of business.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

☞ DWELL: 1990 Madison Returns to Market

The SRO building at 1990 Madison by 127th Street finally sold for $525K a couple of years back and now it looks like the renovated building is back up for sale.  Looking at photos posted, old finishings such as linoleum floors have been replaced and the kitchens appear to be extremely renter grade.  This block of East Harlem is right by the nicer section of Central Harlem but the new asking price of $1.9 million still seems a bit steep even for a 20-foot-wide building seeing that it appears to still be a rooming house.  More details for this brownstone can be found on the broker site: LINK

☞ ARCHITECTURE: The Hamilton Turns 100

Curbed has the Hamilton Theatre listed as landmarks turning 100 this year: LINK

This grand theater has been bought out by developers this past year and has reportedly been used as a church, boxing venue and even a disco in the 80s.   What the sketch does not convey are the caryatid molded columns on the upper floors which are easily missed if one is not specifically looking for them. These goddess sculptures are a detail of classic Greek architecture and are rarely evident uptown in the older buildings.  As one can see in the lower photo, the cornice is still missing and the facade could use a good cleanup.  If all goes well, maybe the new owner will take better care of this local landmark.

☞ SEE: Harlem's Black & Jewish Music Culture

Sharing a Stage Uptown from Jewish Daily Forward on Vimeo.

Harlem's Black & Jewish Music Culture 1890-1930 at Ristorante Settepani, 196 Lenox Avenue and 120th Street has been extended through April 30th! Graphically spectacular, the exhibit displays sheet music associated with performers, composers and musicians who resided in Harlem and performed at area venues dating back to the 1890’s and continuing into the period of the Harlem Renaissance.  Harlem's Black & Jewish History 1890-1930 is curated by local Harlem historian John Reddick.

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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.

Monday, March 18, 2013

☞ BESPOKE: Decorative Cast Iron Doors

Cast iron designed over a century ago provide not only protection to front portals but also beauty.  When walking through the Mount Morris Park Historic District, we noticed the above carved door that is a perfect balance between form and function.  There might have been a concern in Harlem on stronger security just a decade ago but now new homeowners should really now be selecting more traditional details to compliment older historic buildings.  This attention to design was not only for brownstones but also for the apartment buildings of the early century since those doorways were originally made of wood and glass for the most part.

☞ EAT: Indian Restaurants Arriving in Harlem

Folks have been complaining about the diversity in ethnic food uptown for over a decade now and it appears that two new Indian eateries arriving in South Harlem will remedy that void in culinary choices. Over at 2113 FDB/8th Avenue, Maharaja Palace will open up apparently at the old Questan space by 114th Street.   Mahraja apparently has another location in the city and the website can be found here: LINK

A Bespoke tip sent in over the weekend shows that a modest storefront by at St. Nicholas and 112th Street also announces the debut of another Indian establishment.  This appears to be more of takeout place based on the awning but at least more new minority businesses are making a move to start businesses in Harlem.

☞ SEE: The Stephen Burrows Exhibit at MCNY

March 22nd, The Stephen Burrows Exhibit at The Museum of the City of New York, 1220 Fifth Avenue at East 103rd Street.  The New York Times reports that The Museum of the City of New York will have an exhibition in honor of the notable African-American designer Stephen Burrows.  Mr. Burrows was a contemporary of Halston in the 70s and was noted for bright pattern inset jersey dresses with a revolutionary lettuce hem treatment and had once planned to open a boutique hotel in Harlem: LINK

Back in 1973, Burrows was also one of the five great American designer chosen to present against French couture giants such as Dior and YSL in a fashion show to raise money for repairing the Palais Versaille in France.  This legendary event eventually showed the world that Americans had arrived in modern times and the French could be somewhat stiff in their fashion traditions.  Those interested on more details of this historic event should check out the trailer for the recent documentary on Versaille 73: LINK

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Friday, March 15, 2013

☞ INTRODUCING: HarlemTourist Season Begins

Tourist season has arrived in Harlem and busloads of European visitors have been walking the famous streets of Harlem as of last weekend.  The Harlem Shake is such a global phenomenon now and the soon to open Lenox Avenue burger joint with the same moniker at the corner of 124th Street has been a popular photo opportunity for many. Other destinations spots such as Red Rooster and Sylvia's on Upper Lenox has been a noticeably more crowded along with the lines forming at local gospel churches.  We have been hearing a lot of Italian spoken but tourists form Spain, France and Japan are quite often seen uptown.

☞ ARCHITECTURE: More Construction on 125th

The state office building will not be the only tall building blocking the view on 125th street anymore in the near future according to an article in the Real Deal.  Major construction for massive buildings will be breaking ground soon and the new sketches reveal retail, office and residential towers.  This is currently the low level, enclosed parking lot located between 7th and Lenox Avenue which will now maximize the use of its air rights. The National Urban League will be housed in the 400,000 square foot complex along with 114 affordable residential units.  Read more in the Real Deal: LINK

☞ SHOP: Activity at Old Harlem Vintage

Harlem Vintage closed its doors last fall but South Harlem's first boutique wine shop at FDB and 121st Street appears to be making some sort of comeback.  Renovation work was on hand when we walked by recently and a public notice was posted on the window for a new liquor license with the owners listed as Vintage Harlem NYC.  Harlem Vintage also owned the shuttered Nectar Wine Bar next door so could another incarnation be coming along?

☞ SEE: The Dorothea Baer Tyler Exhibit

Wednesday, March 20th, 6:00PM-9:00PM, The Dorothea Baer Tyler Exhibit at The Uranian Phalanstery, 410 Convent Avenue by 147th Street.  The Uranian Phalanstery made news a couple of years back when it moved from the East Village to  410 Convent Avenue and the art collective will now be presenting one of its first major exhibits in West Harlem.  The art show will exhibit a first time retrospective of Dorothea Baer Tyler's (1926-2012) work, who was one of the founders of the Phalanstery:

Thursday, March 14, 2013

☞ REMEMBER: Matthew Henson circa 1905

Matthew Henson was the exploration partner of Robert Peary who help make the famous first trip to the north pole back in the early part of the 20th century. Mr. Henson was a skilled dog sled driver and may have been the first man to reach the geographic destination back in 1909 but Robert Peary was widely accredited for the feat. The African American Explorer would eventually move to Harlem at the Dunbar Apartments at 149th Street between 7th and 8th Avenue until he passed away in 1955.

Archival image courtesy the digital collection at the Schomburg 

☞ INTRODUCING: Retail Space by Harlem Public

Walking by the hugely popular Harlem Public at 149th and Broadway, we noticed that the matching retail storefront next door is now empty.  Harlem Public tends to be a tight fit sometimes doing prime time and this could be an opportunity for the pub to expand if the next door lease is available.  Otherwise, the location is definitely up and coming for Hamilton Heights and any new establishment should be able to benefit from the foot traffic already generated by Harlem Public.  In the meantime, the weather is getting nicer so the planned outdoor seating should arriving soon at the West Harlem spot.

☞ SHOP: New Signs at Harlem Shambles

We noticed the bespoke butcher shop called Harlem Shambles at 115th and FDB/8th Avenue just put up a new hanging sign out front of the store. This artisanal shop has reclaimed wood floor, on site food prep along with butchers dressed in matching aprons and pork pie hats but is in a rather plain looking new shop. The vintage looking hanging sign now ads some curb appeal to the Harlem Shambles and provides a solution for those stores that are going for an old time look but have secured a lease in a new construction.  Check out more details on the gentlemen butchers at the official Shambles Facebook site: LINK