Posts Tagged ‘Sugar Hill Harlem’

The most elite apartment building in Harlem

May 15, 2013

Paulrobeson555EdgecombeavenueWhen the stately Beaux-Arts apartment building at 555 Edgecombe Avenue opened in 1916, it rented to white tenants only.

But the population of Harlem was already changing, from mostly Irish and Jewish residents to African-Americans.

By the 1940s, the building, located on 160th Street at the edge of the posh Sugar Hill neighborhood, was exclusively black.

Sitting high on a bluff and commanding gorgeous views of the treetops of Edgecombe Avenue and across the Harlem River, these 13 floors plus a penthouse were home to Harlem’s elite.

JoelouisThat included academics, entertainers, and athletes such as Count Basie, Joe Louis (below), Sonny Rollins, sociologist Kenneth Clark, and Paul Robeson (above).

And though today it’s officially within the borders of Washington Heights, 555 Edgecombe is historically identified as part of Harlem.

It’s not an especially distinctive building architecturally, but it is handsome and sturdy, an emblem of the neighborhood’s prime years as a center of artistic and activist achievement.

[Photo right: Property Shark]

Sugar Hill: once Harlem’s most glamorous enclave

January 28, 2013

Harlem has lots of lovely, little-known streets and micro-neighborhoods. One of the grandest is Sugar Hill, an area rich with beautiful row houses, handsome apartment buildings, and a towering view of upper Manhattan.

846Stnicholasavehouses

Bounded roughly by 145th Street to the upper 150s and Edgecombe and Amsterdam Avenues, it was developed in the early 20th century for well-to-do white New Yorkers.

Sugarhillstnicholasave

But after a real-estate recession, the neighborhood soon become home to a black elite, a place synonymous with money and the sweet life.

409Edgecombeave“By the late 1920s, an area that had once been part of Washington Heights was gradually becoming Sugar Hill,” according to the Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance.

“This new upscale neighborhood would eventually become home to black celebrities such as Cab Calloway, Paul Robeson, and A’Lelia Walker and would have an influence on the Harlem Renaissance because the writers, musicians, athletes, civic and political leaders, and others who came to live on Sugar Hill sponsored and participated in talks, soirees, and literary gatherings there.”

SugarhilledgecombeaveviewA century later, the architectural treasures of Sugar Hill remain, like the neo-
renaissance houses in the top photo, built from 1896 and 1898 on St. Nicholas Avenue.

At 409 Edgecombe Avenue is a 1917 apartment residence (above). It’s the former home of W.E.B. DuBois and Thurgood Marshall. The view across Jackie Robinson Park is pretty incredible (right).

The last of Harlem’s free-standing mansions

February 24, 2011

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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