A great photo of Harlem from 1946. Note how few trees there are on the streetscape:
The text on the back claims it’s on 129th Street, but the distinctive porches on the right (south) side are unequivocally Astor Row (West 130th Street).
It’s interesting to compare the tree cover 75 years later:
However, the text on the back of the photo shows that housing has (for generations) been a significant concern in New York City. The photo is up for sale on Ebay:
Meet Al Taylor, Tonight
Tonight at 7pm, please join our 1-on-1 discussion with Assembly Member Al Taylor who is running for City Council in District 9. He is trying to unseat incumbent Kristin Jordan and compete with Inez Dickens. This is also an excellent chance to advocate for safety, sanitation, and economic development for our district to an elected official.
Al currently serves as an Assembly Member of district 71, Inwood, Washington Heights and Hamilton Heights. In this district, he has worked on youth gun violence issues in NYCHA housing. Interesting to note that Al is a minister and he has voted against access to abortion and against LGBQT rights.
The 4TH ANNUAL NYC PUBLIC SCHOOL FILM FESTIVAL featuring films by student filmmakers will be held this SATURDAY MAY 21 830PM at the 135th Street Plaza and the James Baldwin Lawn.
Bring your blankets & snacks for a beautiful evening with us – the weather looks amazing.
Uncovering the History of Astor Row
(& Other Buildings Worth Preserving)
Take a stroll with Save Harlem Now! to learn about the history of Astor Row and additional Harlem structures that deserve individual landmark status.Our tour starts at Astor Row, with a cautionary tale of how the landmarking of an important building could not prevent its being torn down.SHN! board member Roberta Washington, the original architect for the Astor Row porch restoration projects and a previous NYC Landmarks Preservation Commissioner, will be our guide.Date: Sunday, May 22, 1-3 p.m.Details: Attendance will be capped at 15 participants in order to keep the group small and leave time for discussion. Because tours bring attendees in close proximity to each other, we ask that all attendees wear their mask regardless of vaccination status.
ABOUT ASTOR ROWIn 1981, twenty-eight paired brick townhouses with wooden porches on West 130th Street were designated as individual landmarks by the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission. Built by William Backhouse Astor, Jr., between 1880-1883, most porches and some buildings were restored starting in 1992 with initial funds donated by Brooke Astor in an effort led by the Landmarks Conservancy in association with the Abyssinian Development Corporation.The Harlem community welcomed the repair and restoration of this group of unique individual landmarks — which is why the community which has also encouraged landmarking of more buildings in Harlem was shocked to wake up to the news that one of the Astor Row homes had been demolished. The demolition has raised questions including: What construction controls are there on sites which once contained an individual landmark? (Hint: fewer that you think.) Is there a way to prevent such tear-downs in the future?On this tour, see Astor Row and other buildings proposed by SHN! as individual landmarks.
Tickets are free, with optional donations accepted to support ongoing SHN! preservation work.
Below are descriptions of 3 other Jane’s Walk tours happening in Harlem:
Mt. Morris Historic District
Mount Morris Park Historic District was designated a landmark in 1971, due to the unaltered streetscapes of its late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century townhouses and churches. French Neo-Grec, Queen Anne, Romanesque Revival, and Classical Renaissance are the predominant styles of housing. One of the oldest parks in New York City is Mount Morris Park (today known as Marcus Garvey Park). City officials purchased the land in 1839. In the area lived White Protestant families, a Tammy Hall boss, wealthy Eastern European Jews, less wealthy Western European Jews, and later African Americans.
During this walk, we will learn about the people who lived in Harlem and what events, such as the Summer of Love, which was filmed and won a recent Oscar, made Harlem so important. This Free Jane Walk will be led by Carolyn Johnson, owner of Welcome to Harlem. Register with the Municipal Art Society.
Central Harlem’s Little Known District
Friday, May 6, 2022 at 1pm
Meeting location: 130th Street & Lenox Ave (North Corner)
The Central Harlem Historic District is a fairly new designation. It spotlights little-known Black history. Several Black charities like the Clubman’s Beneficial League and the Utopia Neighborhood Club found homes in this district. Many Black entertainers like James Reese Europe, of WWI fame, lived here. The district shows that a tight-knit community once lived and still lives in Central Harlem. They supported each other and made sure they could enjoy a rich, quality of life. This FREE Jane’s Walk will be led by Savona Bailey-McClain, Executive Director of the West Harlem Art Fund. Register with the Municipal Art Society.
Who were the Strivers
Friday, May 6, 2022 at 3pm
Meeting location: 515 Malcolm X Blvd (135th Street)
Row houses were considered tract homes for the middle and upper-middle classes. New York counts over 200,000-row houses across the City. Once derided as too modern and artificial at the end of the 19th century, these homes are highly sought after now.
The St. Nicholas Historic District was originally known as the David H. King Model Homes or the King Model Houses. Four rows and three architectural styles — Italian Renaissance, Georgian and Yellow Brick facades with limestone. Built from 1891 to 1893, these homes remained empty until after World War I. Black families from the South and the Caribbean could finally purchase these homes after years of push back. Learn who lived here and how they became known as Strivers in this FREE Jane’s Walk. Understand how row houses transformed NYC forever. Register with the Municipal Art Society. This FREE Jane’s Walk will be led by Savona Bailey-McClain, Executive Director of the West Harlem Art Fund.
Willam Backhouse Astor Jr. lived from 1829 – 1892 and in our community, is best remembered as the person who developed Astor Row, AKA West 130th Street between 5th Avenue and Lenox.
The south side of this block was developed by Astor as speculative townhouses – built when there was little else around, but under the assumption that the expansion of New York would make homes in Harlem attractive to the middle and upper-middle class.
The row (really just the south side) was designed by Charles Buek who built the houses between 1880 and 1883. While John Jacob Astor had purchased in 1844 for $10,000. Astor’s grandson, William Backhouse Astor, Jr., was the driving force behind the development.
The design of the three-story brick, single-family houses is unusual for Harlem and Manhattan, in that they are set back from the street, and all have both front and side yards, as well as their distinctive wooden porches.
Closer to 5th Avenue, there are a series of freestanding brick townhouse pairs. After #24, the houses are all connected.
In the years around and immediately after WW1, Black entrepreneurs like Philip Payton began to bring Black tenants into the area centered around 5th Avenue and 133rd Street. Seeing this trend, J. Cruikshank bought 20 houses on Astor Row in 1920 — all previously owned by middle-class and upper-middle-class whites — and begins selling them to Black buyers, prompting The New York Times to predict that the row would soon be occupied entirely by African Americans.
In 1981, the Astor Row houses (on the south side) were designated New York City Landmarks.
The financial crisis of the 1970s, the ongoing effects of redlining, and the systemic racism in city agencies that prioritized some communities over others, led to an incredible deterioration in Harlem’s infrastructure. The ‘before/after’ images below are powerful reminders of the era: