Friday, January 31, 2014

☞ READ: The West Village of Harlem in WSJ

Our Number One Harlem neighborhood for 2013 has a big article in the Wall Street Journal today with one of our quotes.  The Mount Morris Park Historic District is basically the West Village of Harlem with house proud local residents fighting to preserve the architecture since the late 60s.  When the city tried to incorporate drug clinics on the handsome distric just below 125th Street, the influential block association also prevented that from happening. Now even more dramatic change is at hand with Whole Foods arriving in a year or so and that has many worrying that Harlem will lose much of its cultural heritage from the past 80 years: LINK

For the Harlem Bespoke ranking of Mount Morris Park, check out our past post: LINK

☞ BESPOKE: Gold Signage at Double Dutch

Double Dutch Espresso opened on FDB and 118th Street this past week but the final touches were still needed at the storefront.  We followed Sugar Hill gold leaf artist Sandra Spannan to the new boutique shop to see her work in action at the top window transom.  Those not familiar with the centuries old technique of gold-on-glass application might be interested in the fact that real gold is used for the brilliant shimmer of artisanal signage.  This precious metal is very malleable so paper thin sheets are actually applied in 14KT-24KT based on the color desired.  More window signage will probably arrive soon but the one just finished in the past couple of days is truly a work of art.  Ms. Spannan's company also handle the gold number restoration at all of the local Harlem brownstones: LINK

☞ DRINK: Best Bars for the Super Bowl

It is that time a year again and here are out top picks to for a night out during the Super Bowl.  Any other suggestion out there?

Harlem Tavern, 116th Street on FDB/8th Avenue.  The Tavern is the largest sports bar in Harlem so it would make sense to check out the food and the game at the South Harlem favorite this Sunday.

Ginny's Supper Club at the Red Rooster, Lenox at 126th.  Harlem's best supper club will be screening the game but reservations might be needed:  LINK

Harlem Food Bar, 114th Street and FDB/8th Avenue.  HFB is a more intimate space but the guys will have their own Super Bowl party with drink and food specials.

Harlem Public, 149th Street and Broadway.  West Harlem's favorite sports bar with a great beer selection and stellar bar food offerings will be the place to be north of 145th Street.

☞ SEE: Graffiti 101 at the MCNY

Graffiti 101: New York Subway Art of the 1970s and 80s, Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 6:30 pm In 1974, when he was just 14 years old, Chris Pape (aka Freedom) started painting murals in abandoned freight train tunnels under Riverside Park.  Join Pape, now a veteran graffiti artist and author, for an insider’s account of the New York City subway graffiti movement between 1969 and 1989, and a discussion of what it was like to stand in a tunnel with subway cars racing past while trying to paint a train. How did writers like Pape do it? How did the city stop it? What happened to graffiti art in New York once it moved off the trains? Co-sponsored by Graff Tours and Mass Appeal and presented in conjunction with City as Canvas: New York City Graffiti from the Martin Wong Collection. Free for Museum members; $12 for students and seniors; $16 general public: LINK

Thursday, January 30, 2014

☞ REMEMBER: The Gatehouse circa 1895

A photo from 1895 shows the Gatehouse as it stood when it was a water pumping station for the Croton water supply system that was the central water source for the city.   Today the notable landmark  at 135th Street and Convent Avenue is an amazing public stage space which debuted back in 2006 after a $21 million renovation.  This area of land on the City College campus used to have a neo-classical Greek stadium nearby for over 70 years until it was torn down to make way for a larger modern building for the local college.  In our opinion having the city build another grand public space within this equally majestic landmark only made sense since Harlem had lost a majority of its historic theaters by the time the 90s rolled around.  Check out what that Greek stadium looked like in our past post: LINK

Archival image courtesy the Museum of the City of New York

☞ DWELL: Record Contract in East Harlem

A 25-foot-wide townhouse in East Harlem has a record contract out for the high asking price of $3.125 million.  Number 309 East 109th Street is around the corner from Second Avenue and not really in a prime location in our opinion and the interiors are renovated without much detail interest inside.  So what is up with the higher price that would even be considered highly respectable in prime South Harlem or West Harlem for a brownstone buyer?  Apparently the land has been zoned for a 12-unit development so this is not about a new home buyer who wants to move into the neighborhood.  There still is quite a few empty lots uptown so it is kind of a shame to destroy an intact old building especially since East Harlem's historic housing stock has been decimated with bland modern building for the past 6 decades.  More on Streeteasy: LINK

☞ BESPOKE: Lore Upholstery in East Harlem

Those getting ready for spring cleaning and decorating for 2014 really should start thinking about reviving some old furniture that might just need a new outlook.  East Harlem's best kept secret is the family-owned Lore Decorators that does all their custom upholstery work on sight. Skip the middle man and go directly to the source to get an old antique couch or chair repaired with your own fabric or a selection that the store provides.

We have had items purchased on eBay for almost nothing shipped directly to Lore and they delivered it  to our door brand new based on fabric we selected previously from the store.  Custom drapes are also a service for those in need.  New York magazine has listed Lore within their "The Best of New York" issue in the past.

Also on the plus side is that going direct will be only about one-third of the price for the same service anywhere else in the city.  Lore is located at 2201 3rd Avenue between 120th and 121st Street. Tel. 212-534-1025. Take the 6 train to 116th St or the 4,5 train to 125th Street.

☞ INTRODUCING: The Harlem Food Truck Rally

Saturday and Sunday, February 15th-16th, 11:00AM-5:00PM, The Harlem Food Truck Rally, FDB/8th Avenue between 117th and 118th Street.   The first Harlem Food Truck Rally is coming to South Harlem on Valentine's weekend in 2 weeks.  Ten food truck favorites including Wafels & Dinges, Luke's Lobster, Shorty's Philly Cheese Steak Sandwiches, Hibachi Heaven, Gorilla Cheese and more will be on hand.  There will also be kid friendly activities and outdoor heat lamps on hand.  More details on the Harlem Food Rally Facebook site: LINK

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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

☞ BESPOKE: Harlem Gold at the Paramount

Our most read Bespoke interview for 2013 was with Sugar Hill gilding artist Sandra Spannan and so we decided to tag along with uptown's golden girl for the week to check out some of her projects.  Ms. Spannan's work usually consist of brownstone numbering or restaurant window signage like the ones at Balthazar but some bigger accounts also have the artist working for them.  First up was the finishing touches for the revival of the Diamond Horseshoe club at the basement of the Paramount Hotel which is also hosting the immersive supper club show called Queen of the Night from the producers of
Sleep No MoreLINK

Thin layers of hammered gold have now been applied to the giant sun at the center of the circular ballroom and a smaller, concave moon watches over not too far away by the bar area.  The aforementioned celestial body was the last thing to be gilded on Monday night and the crater detailing was being hand painted on by the artist as she talked about all of the decorative work that went into the design project.   More cost affective golden metals were added for the vintage shimmer of the mirror panels behind the green velvet banquets along with the stenciled circular bathroom mirrors which have all been carefully glazed for a perfect antique patina.  As one can see from the photos, those said bathroom mirrors have taken the snake motif wallpaper a little further and the reptilian designs extends into the beholder's view when in use.

This expansive space has been shuttered since the 50s and was once considered the most lavishly decadent venue in Manhattan.  Most of the original stairwells have been restored at the Diamond Horseshoe but the rest has been carefully crafted by an army of artist to make everything new look old but glamorous at the same time.  Plaster walls at the entrance have been crafted to look like they have been decaying for a century and a massive chandelier sits at the bottom of the stairwell surrounded by an installation of champagne glasses all meticulously glued together by hand. Now $20 million has all been spent to restore the gigantic circular interior with early century boutique accents and the opulent addition of gold leaf was the final icing on the gilded cake.

Check out our original interview with the talented Sandra Spannan in our past post: LINK

☞ DWELL: Contract Out at 710 Riverside

Press kits have been submitted this week announcing the arrival of the new condo conversion called 710 Riverside in Hamilton Heights.  There will be 18 units available in all,  ranging from $426K for the smaller units and up to $818K for the largest condo which is a 3 bedroom in the prewar building.  Curbed now reports that a 982-square-foot 2BR/2BA listed for $638,800 already has a contract out so things are getting off to a quick start at this development by West 148th Street: LINK

More details at:

☞ EAT: Bungalow Burgers Opens on Upper FDB

Upper FDB is still pretty rough around the edges but a new eatery called Bungalow Burgers has opened in the former BBQ space at the corner of 127th Street which might just turn things around. This new burger shack is apparently from the same owner as Cantina on the Lower ACP corridor (which we do like) but the new space is a bit more commercial from what we can see.  Everything is very moderately priced and specials like sliders are part of the offering.  Has anyone been yet?

Read more about the other restaurant mentioned called Cantina in our past post: LINK

☞ REVIVE: 533 Manhattan Avenue Update

Number 533 Manhattan Avenue was an empty shell for quite a long time and now it looks like the renovations are really coming along at the South Harlem townhouse.  This 15-foot wide building sold a couple of years back for $630K and a dumpster was out front of the brownstone by 123rd Street for most of 2013.  When we walked by last week,  we noticed that there were new windows in place and that the scratch coat on the surface has been set up for the final brownstone facade refinishing.  All of the paperwork filed reveals that when all is finished up, the restored property will eventually be a 2-family home.  See what Number 533 looked like before in our previous post: LINK

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

☞ DRINK: Happy Hour & Oysters at Maison Harlem

One dollar Oysters & Happy Hour has been extended 5 days a week at Maison Harlem,  Monday to Fridays from 5:00PM to 7:00PM.  This boutique bistro on St. Nicholas and 127th Street (just north of the A,B,C,D stop) has one of the best bespoke bars in town and now the drink-friendly oyster special has been extended for every day of the work week.  More details on Maison Harlem can be found on their main site: LINK

☞ DWELL: Hamilton Heights Doubles in Price

A recent Daily News article reveals that Hamilton Heights is the biggest gainer in home values within Manhattan for 2013.  Prices have jumped 50 percent to $320,000 from $213,000 according to the article and we assume this is mainly for the apartment market since townhouse averages are in the millions.  Pricey Central Harlem apparently decreased 14 percent now to $470,000 but the article blames the dip on lack of inventory.   Manhattan still was has the most valued homes overall in all of New York City with the average of $825,000: LINK

☞ INTRODUCING: Double Dutch Opens on FDB

The soft opening of Double Dutch Espresso on FDB and 118th Street was a big success this weekend. Word of mouth has it that they turned a profit the very first day and that is big news for the local business owners who jointly share two other small coffee shops in Greater Harlem.   Official hours now are 7:00AM-7:00PM  from Monday - Friday and 8:00AM-7:00PM for the weekend.  Everyone should support this small boutique business to ensure more like it survive instead of the chains taking over the avenues these days.  Also the free wi-fi actually works at Double Dutch and we never can get a reception at the Starbucks across the street.

☞ SHOP: Delays for Custom Fuel Pizza

Custom Fuel Pizza on 123rd and FDD/8th Avenue announced on their website that an opening would happen on January 27th but that date has now passed.  Most new businesses have signs up on the storefront on opening week and the Custom Fuel was silent last night when we walked by.  The website of the DC chain still has the original opening date up but CFP did announce on Twitter that the new shop would need a couple of more weeks.

☞ 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, January 27, 2014

☞ REMEMBER: Harlem Avenues circa 1956

Gothamist recently posted on a 1956 short film about tourism in New York City which shows just a small glimpse of Harlem at the end.  Based on all of the old archival photos we have seen, the above street scene is probably on Lenox Avenue somewhere and the dramatic original subway stations entrances are in full view where they once stood.   Any other guesses out there?

Check out the full video on Gothamist: LINK

☞ DWELL: Record Contract at Strivers Row

The highest priced Strivers Row house located at 221 West 138th Street now has a contract out.  This landmark building has been on the market for a little over two months for the initial asking of $2.495 million and the rich original details within the interior might have helped sell this home built by architects Bruce Price and Clarence S. Luce over a century ago.  Each of these Central Harlem homes have a gated driveway along with a garage in the back and the Strivers Row District was Number 7 on our Best Harlem Block list for 2013: LINK

More details and photos on 221 West 138th Street can be found on Streeteasy: LINK

☞ SEE: Free Pompeii Movie Screening on 125th

Thursday, February 6th, Free Pompeii Screening at AMC Magic Johnson Harlem, 92309 Frederick Douglass Blvd at 125th Street,  Tel: 212-665-8733.  Harlem Bespoke has partnered with Sony Pictures for a free screening of the movie Pompeii that will be premiering at the Magic Johnson Theater on 125th Street in early February.  The Hollywood film features Kit Harington from Game of Thrones and is a Roman gladiator epic on the last days of Pompeii right before the volcano eruption that would decimate the city.  Register for FREE tickets and see the trailer at the movie screening  host site: LINK

☞ BESPOKE: Harlem Market Vendors Wanted

The Bespoke team is working on a curated early Spring Market which will feature Harlem's great artists, antique collectors, clothing and artisanal vendors. The first time around will be a small indoor affair but will be the incubator for a larger outdoor market during the summertime.  Please note food vendors interested for the winter event should be more pre-packaged in nature since space will be limited. The Bespokesmen will also have a booth up to answer questions and feature some great merchandise designed fashionably for Harlem.

A website will be up for this new Harlem flea market in the next week our so but in the meantime those interested should email us some sample of their offerings and we will review everything from there.  Space is limited so contact us for more details and send a link to your product site or photos:

☞ JOIN: Harlem Bespoke on Facebook

Join our growing community of over 6,309 followers on the official Harlem Bespoke Facebook site and receive daily posts to your account by liking our page: LINK

Friday, January 24, 2014

☞ INTRODUCING: Double Dutch This Weekend

A big round of restaurant openings for 2014 seems to be at hand in the next coming weeks for Harlem.   We talked with the owner of Lenox Coffee last night and he casually mentioned that Double Dutch Espresso cafe on 118th and FDB/8th Avenue will have its soft opening this weekend.  The staff is currently finishing up the final touches on Friday and South Harlem should be able to get a good cup of coffee by Saturday morning.  More photos on the Bearded Lady Double Dutch Espresso Facebook site: LINK

☞ EAT: Soft Opening at Tio Luca

The new tapas restaurant called Tia Luca on Lenox and the corner of 131st just had a private soft opening last night.  We received the tip from one of the block association members who all were invited to preview the new restaurant that apparently was serving up some seriously amazing tacos for the night.  There has not been an official date announced for the actual public opening but word of mouth is that it could be as early as next week.

☞ SEE: Dance Theatre of Harlem Sunday Matinee

Sunday, February 9th, 3:00 PM, Sunday Matinees at the Dance Theatre of Harlem, 466 West 152nd Street, between Amsterdam and St. Nicholas Avenues. The Dance Theatre of Harlem has started the Sunday Matinee series once more for 2014 and features performances from current or visiting dancers accompanied with live music on the second Sunday of each month. Discounted online tickets are $18 for adults and $14 for seniors/children and can be bought at the Dance Theatre site: LINK

☞ READ: Mountain Bird in Zagat

The Zagat website has listed Mountain Bird at 231 West 145th Street as the Must-Try restaurant of the moment on their website.  We stopped by again last night at the small eatery on the unassuming block just east of FDB and had a taste of their fantastic signature fois gras dumpling soup, a highly recommended, rich Moulard duck entree and the new ostrich tartare special which is one of the best dishes we have tasted in some time.  As Zagat confirms, Mountain Bird is only for the true foodie who appreciates the subtle French offerings and reservations are highly recommended because the restaurant only seats 19 guests.  More photos and a complete review on Zagat: LINK

UPDATE:  Also Eater NY has just uploaded some great photos of the interior this morning: LINK

☞ 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:

Thursday, January 23, 2014

☞ BESPOKE: Jackie Robinson Style in Paris

Designer Umit Benan was inspired by baseball legend Jackie Robinson for his Fall/Winter 2014 that was just presented in Paris.  Robinson broke the segregated Major League race barrier in the 1940s and Mr. Benan's presentation is a visual ode to that decades style and also a statement agains racism in the fashion world.  Along with great current interpretations of the baseball jacket and sportswear, the presentation also featured all African-American male models of different generations.

On a Harlem note, this baseball style can already be seen on the trendy young men walking down 125th Street and has been around for the past year.  Landmark wise, the old Colonial Park on 145th Street was renamed after Jackie Robinson in 1978 and statue of the baseball great can be found within the recreation building by Bradhurst Avenue.  A video of this show can be found on the Details site: LINK

☞ ARCHITECTURE: Harlem Modern Townhouses

Some say that cost is an issue in developing more contextual townhouses or brownstones but the ones on West 117th Street by FDB/8th Avenue do a pretty good job without going over the top with the details.  Artisan cast iron or carved stone was very common a century ago because the craftsman labor was readily available from Italian immigrants and an established brownstone industry but today that is not the case.  The modern townhouses in the above photo have been designed around the grand classic stoop and all of the cornices are simple cast stone but it somehow all looks clean an inviting.  There seems to have been more of an effort over a decade ago in Central Harlem to restore some of the abandoned lots with homes that work in this vernacular but some of the new ones today are just pretty much square brick boxes without any details.

☞ SPONSORED: Bespoke Listings Spring 2014

Those who love our independent home reviews should also check out the Harlem Bespoke Listings page from our advertisers.  We have a new round of property profiles for Spring 2014 from local sponsors and will be updating the Listings tab at the top right of the page in the coming weeks.  Click on the aforementioned tab for updates or check out the page here: LINK

For more details on securing advertising space, contact us directly by email: