The last of Harlem’s free-standing mansions

The Harlem enclave known as Sugar Hill was named for the wealthy African-Americans who moved into the fine row houses there during the 1920s.

But the area began attracting big money makers decades earlier, in the 1880s. All that’s left of these Gilded Age pioneers are a handful of gorgeous, free-standing mansions.

Like the James Bailey House on St. Nicholas Place at 150th Street (at right). Call it the house the circus built: it’s the castle-like residence of James Bailey, of Barnum & Bailey Circus fame.

Bailey had the 12,000-foot Romanesque Revival beauty (left, in a 1930s NYPL photo) built in 1888.

Harlem Hybrid has amazing photos of the interior here.

Recently sold (since 1951, it had been a funeral home, fittingly) and currently hidden by scaffolding, the granite house changed hands for a mere $1.4 million.

More obscure is the Nicholas and Agnes Benziger House around the corner on Edgecomb Avenue.

Constructed in 1890 by a rich publisher, it’s crowned by a clay tile roof and gabled dormers.

Who lives there now? According to this site, it serves as housing for homeless adults. But on a recent visit, no signs of life could be detected.

Both homes are landmarked, reminders of uptown Manhattan’s rich, elite past.

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