If you were unable to make it to HNBA’s January meeting with State Senator Cordell Cleare (and others and would like to view it, here’s the link:
Van Der Zee
A while ago I came across a great black and white image from James Van Der Zee, the celebrated photographer of the Harlem Renaissance. The image, of The Church of God’s nursery school is arresting with the starched elegance of the children’s outfits and the stern flanking adults who bracket the scene.
The morticians and funeral directors sign in the window below the church sign highlighted the roles that Veal and Veal, Licensed Undertakers were willing to perform. On that glass window, the number 257 had me curious as to where this might be in Harlem.
There are, as you can imagine, many streets or avenues with the address 257, but what helped me a lot was the distinctive architecture on the left of the scene:
The monumental structure is odd – neither residential looking nor commercial. It was, however a building I’d puzzled over for years, and this image (below) shows the building as it exists today, with the distinctive window, now bricked up:
And the building to the east, the one that had held the church and funeral directors, retains the distinctive cast-iron detail to the left of the door and around the transom window:
Below is the full view of what is now the Presbyterian Church of Ghana in New York and the somewhat forlorn facade of 257, shorn of its commercial bay.
And below, an image of 257 West 123rd Street, in its 1940’s tax photo.