Posts Tagged ‘tenement names’

Mysterious male names over tenement doorways

May 13, 2013

Ever notice that when a tenement building has a name, it tends to be female? Bertha, Florence, Rose, Sylvia—names popular at the turn of the last century, when so many tenements were built, are etched above doorways all over the city.

But a handful of tenements buck the trend and appear to be named for a man. Is it the developer himself, or just a random name that happen to appeal to circa-1900 ears?

Jerometenementname

I wonder if that’s the case with Jerome. It’s the name of a tenement in Morningside Heights, perhaps a nod to Leonard Jerome, a flashy 19th century financier whose name still graces a park and thoroughfare in the Bronx? He’s also the grandfather of Winston Churchill.

Theodoretenementname

Theodore, on the Upper East Side, could be a tribute to Theodore Roosevelt. Or the builder’s son or brother?

Rogertenementname

The Roger, on 160th Street and Edgecombe Avenue in Washington Heights, is named for Roger Morris, a British army colonel who fought in the French and Indian War.

In the 1760s, he retired to an Upper Manhattan estate (now known as the Morris-Jumel Mansion) that still stands today.

Edgarcourttenementname

I don’t know who Edgar was or why a tenement on West 125th Street was named for him. But instead of the name being carved above the door, it’s laid in tile on the floor.

Some mysterious names carved into tenements

January 7, 2013

I love that even the lowliest tenements typically have names. A developer would complete his building, then carve a word or two above the entrance—such as the name of the street or a popular politician—to distinguish it from the pack.

Tenementclaremount

Some names are obvious, others more mysterious, such as this one in the East Village. The Claremount is a handsome building on East 12th Street. But why Claremount?

Claremont Avenue, named for an old New York family, is a short street in Morningside Heights, but I’m not aware of any connection between the Claremonts and the East Village. Perhaps it just sounded posh.

Tenementnonpareil

The Nonpareil is a tenement on Edgecombe Avenue on the Harlem/Washington Heights border. It translates into “having no match” or “unrivaled.” Quite a boastful name for such a humble building!

Tenementminneola2

Minneola is reportedly a Native American word for “a pleasant place.” Hence this building, in the South Village. Or is it a misspelled homage to Mineola, Long Island?

Tenementhelencourt

Helen Court sounds like a soft, peaceful tenement. It’s in Harlem near 125th Street. Helen was a popular name about a century ago. Who was Helen—the developer’s wife or daughter?

The female names carved into tenements

September 20, 2012

Used to be that ships and hurricanes were typically named after women.

And it seems that tenement and prewar developers used the same tradition when they named New York’s residential buildings.

The surviving monikers are a glimpse into the favored female names of the era.

The Sylvia is a six-story building at 59 West 76th Street. So who was Sylvia?

No one knows for sure, but one theory is that the name comes from Shakespeare’s heroine in “Two Gentlemen of Verona.”

Anastasia Court, built in 1926, is on Fourth Avenue in Bay Ridge.

The Florence is another old-world beauty out in Bay Ridge. It’s not the only Florence in the city.

There’s a Florence walk-up tenement at 128 Second Avenue at St. Marks Place and another on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn.

And this Morningside Heights tenement, The Bertha, isn’t the only Bertha in Manhattan. There’s another in Harlem.

Bertha and Florence: Clearly two very popular chick names back in 1900!

The mysteries surrounding some tenement names

December 24, 2011

The names chiseled onto city tenement building entrances are often pretty puzzling.

The typical tenement is more than 100 years old. With the original builders long-gone, who can explain where some of these names come from, and why they were chosen?

Like Novelty Court, on Driggs Avenue in Williamsburg. Actually, a little research turned up an explanation: this used to be the site of the Novelty Theater, according to Cinema Treasures, which disappeared from city directories by the 1920s.

A. Segal’s (Secal’s?) Apartments are also in Williamsburg. But who was A. Segal, and why did he put his first initial and last name on his building?

Blennerhasset sounds like Manhasset, a town in Long Island. I’ve never seen the name anywhere else but on this tenement near Columbia University.

Who was Frances, and how would she feel about the terrible shape the building named for her is in, on Lexington Avenue in East Harlem?

East Harlem’s upper-class tenement names

January 27, 2011

Tenement buildings all over New York have names—some after politicians or presidents, others for girls and women whose relationships to the builders have been lost to the ages.

And strangely, several tenements in East Harlem have elegant, urbane monikers. Perhaps the turn-of-the-century developers selected names meant to attract a more well-off, aspirational class of renters?

The Boulevard is on Lexington and 124th Street. “Boulevard” has such an upper-crust ring to it. Maybe Lexington Avenue was supposed to rival the tree-lined Boulevard on the West Side.

The Newport on East 110th Street—it harkens back to the posh Newport, Rhode Island of the Vanderbilts, Astors, and other wealthy New Yorkers.

The Centennial, appropriately named after the year it was built, arrived a little before the tenements in the rest of the neighborhood.

It sounds triumphant and grand there on Third Avenue and 116th Street. Too bad the upper part of the building is rundown and bricked up.

Why are tenements mainly named after girls?

June 29, 2009

Or maybe the question should be why unremarkable five- and six-story apartment buildings have names at all. Sometimes you see one with a male name, but mainly they’re named after women.

I guess it was a way for the builders to honor their wives, mothers, and daughters. I wonder who Henrietta was, and why her name graces this tenement on Madison Street:

Henriettabuilding

The Bertha, with this lovely flower motif, is in Harlem:

Berthabuilding

Here’s more on the women who gave their names to New York City buildings.


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