Why are tenements mainly named after girls?

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:


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


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

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11 Responses to “Why are tenements mainly named after girls?”

  1. PizzaBagel Says:

    I take pictures of “interesting” buildings, like the ones in this post. For the record, the “Henrietta” building is at 211 Madison Street. Do you recall exactly or approximately where the “Bertha” building is? I’d like to get a shot of it.

    FYI, here are some more for you:

    In Brooklyn at 11-15 Montrose Avenue is the “Daisy,” and at 278 Humboldt Street is the “Jeannette.” In Manhattan at 48 Carmine Street is the “Theresia,” at 128 Second Avenue is the “Florence,” and at 329 East 14th Street is the “Rose Hill.”

    Love your blog!

  2. wildnewyork Says:

    Thanks! I’m not always good about writing down addresses when I take a photo of a building. But I believe Bertha is on 125th Street, say between Madison and Seventh Avenue. There’s also a strong chance it’s on Lenox Avenue off 125 St, since the next photo I took was of the Lenox Lounge. I’ll try to hunt down a more precise address for you.

  3. PizzaBagel Says:

    That should be close enough a description of its location for me to track it down. I certainly don’t mind wandering around a bit, anyway. Thanks again!

  4. PizzaBagel Says:

    I found another one: “THE ANNJEANNETTE” at 72 Canal St./13 Allen St. That’s what it reads at the top of the Canal St. side of the building. At the top of the building and above a door on the Allen St. side of the building, it reads “F.J.SEELIG.”

  5. wildnewyork Says:

    That’s a great name for an apartment building–sounds like F.J. Seelig’s wife and mother were vying to see their name on the top, so rather than pick one, he combined the two.

  6. Barb Hauck Says:

    Does anyone have a picture of 48 Carmine Street with the name Theresia on it? That building was named after my great great grandmother.

  7. East Harlem’s upper-class tenement names « Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] buildings all over New York have names—some after politicians or presidents, others for girls and women whose relation to the builders have been lost to the […]

  8. Robert P. Fowler Says:

    I grew up at 184 East End Avenue, one of a group of four five story walk-up French flats built in the late 1880s. Each of the houses had girls names carved into the lintels over the entry – the houses had been built by Jacob Rupert, and the rent formed the dowries for his daughters. We lived in ‘Elizabeth,’ ‘Augusta’ was next door – oh, and we all had REgent 4 phone numbers…

  9. wildnewyork Says:

    I wonder if the tenements are still there; I can’t remember ever seeing a tenement on East End Avenue. I’ll have to check it out!

  10. Robert P. Fowler Says:

    184 East End Avenue wasn’t a tenement, but rather a French flat, with two apartments to the floor. In fact, on two of the floors, both halves had been joined together into one large apartment with two baths.

  11. The female names carved into tenement entrances « Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] And this Morningside Heights tenement, The Bertha, isn’t the only Bertha in Manhattan. There’s another in Harlem, with this decorative element on the facade. […]

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