Posts Tagged ‘East Harlem Street’

The writing on the wall of an East Side tenement

February 11, 2019

Sometimes in New York you come across a building that’s trying to tell you something. Take this red-brick tenement on the corner of Second Avenue and 109th Street.

At some point in the past, ads were painted on the facade—designed to catch the eyes of Second Avenue El riders and pedestrians in a neighborhood that was once a Little Italy, then became Spanish Harlem by the middle of the century.

Now, perhaps nine decades later, enough faded and weathered paint remains to give us a clue as to what the ads were about.

The ad on the right side of the facade might look familiar to faded-ad fans; that familiar script used to be painted all over the city.

Fletcher’s Castoria was a laxative produced by Charles Fletcher all the way back in 1871. The company promoted the product until the 1920s with ads on the sides of buildings, a few of which can still be seen today.

This photo taken by Charles von Urban (part of the digital collection of the Museum of the City of New York) shows a similar ad on East 59th Street in 1932.

The ad—or ads—on the left side of the tenement are harder to figure out. “Lexington Ave” is on the bottom, and it looks like the word “cars” is on top.

A garage? A gas station? For a while I thought the word in the middle might be Bloomingdale’s, a good 60 or so blocks downtown on Lexington. There was—and maybe still is—a very faded Bloomingdale’s ad on a building at 116th Street and Lexington.

Exactly what riders and walkers saw when they passed this corner is still a mystery.

[Third image: MCNY 3.173.367]

An anonymous valentine sent to East 121st Street

February 13, 2013

I wonder who mailed this sweet yet message-less card to Miss Elsie Mangels, who apparently resided at 447 East 121st Street in February 1910?


Her residence looks like it no longer exists; a housing development and some empty lots occupy that address today.


The card comes from the New York Public Library’s digital collection—a treasure of old ephemera, including vintage Valentine cards.

Three ways of viewing a Lexington Avenue corner

September 3, 2012

In 1915, when this photo was taken, Lexington Avenue at 116th Street was firmly in the Little Italy of East Harlem, hence the Italian in the signs on the far right above a chemist’s office.

“This section of East Harlem was developed  during the 1880s with the familiar New York brownstone residences and walk-up apartments,” states New York Then and Now, where the photo and the one below appear.

“One block west is the elevated crossing of the New York Central and New Haven Railroads on Park Avenue. The Subway Cafe, on the right-hand corner, anticipates the opening of the Lexington Avenue subway by three years.”

By 1975, the Italian neighborhood is mostly gone; Puerto Rican New Yorkers have moved in. The buildings themselves haven’t changed much—and the Bloomingdale’s ad from 1915 is visible 60 years later.

In 2012, the streetscape still looks similar. The corner building that went from saloon to Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet is now home to a taco shop, a sign of the neighborhood’s Mexican population.

And though the Bloomingdale’s ad on the corner has been painted over, next to it out of view, a second Bloomingdale’s ad is still legible! Here it is from an earlier Ephemeral post.

The pets painted on an East Harlem facade

May 3, 2012

Graffiti artist Chico painted this mural in 2001 on the side of a building at Third Avenue and 103rd Street. Animal Care and Control—the city pound—is up the block on 110th.

His animal-themed murals are (or were?) all over the East Village. The Local East Village has a few here.

Solving a murder at Harlem’s Green Parrot Grill

November 17, 2011

It may be the only time a tropical bird helped crack a New York cold case.

On July 12, 1942, Max Geller, owner of the Green Parrot Bar and Grill on Third Avenue and 100th Street, was shot to death in his small restaurant by a lone gunman.

“None of the restaurant’s patrons could (or would) identify the killer, and the police had no clues,” wrote Patrick M. Wall in The Annals of Manhattan Crime, published in New York magazine in 1988.

Months passed, and finally, a breakthrough. Geller had kept a real parrot in his restaurant, and a detective learned that the bird was trained to call regular customers by name.

Witnesses had said that the bird screeched “robber robber robber” as his owner was shot. The detective, however, “had a hunch that the parrot had actually repeated “Robert Robert Robert.”

“Suspicion focused on a man named Robert Butler, 28, who had left Manhattan shortly after the shooting,” wrote Wall.

Cops located Butler, a former taxi driver, in Maryland, where he confessed to shooting Geller in a drunken rage because Geller refused to serve him.

Brought back to New York in November 1943, Butler was sentenced to 15 years.

[This is not the murder-solving parrot, but he probably looked similar. . . .]