Posts Tagged ‘East Harlem tenements’

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.