Posts Tagged ‘Harlem village’

A mystery bridge in a Harlem subway station

April 1, 2013

It’s a shame that the mosaics lining the walls of the 125th Street and Lexington Avenue subway station are so caked in grime. They depict a version of Harlem very different from its gritty urban image.

HarlemIRTbridgemosaic

There’s a white church steeple, a house or two set among green hills, and a tidy little bridge stretching over a gentle river.

The steeple and houses seem to reflect Harlem’s past as a mostly rural village from the 17th century until the late 19th century. But what bridge are we looking at?

Harlemriverbridge1861

This New York times article calls it a steel-girder bridge.

And while it might depict one of the steel bridges that crossed the Harlem River at the time (or still cross it), I wonder if the image in the mosaic is actually based on the above illustration of the Harlem Bridge in the 1860s.

Subway mosaics like this one decorate many of the original IRT stations in Manhattan. The 125th Street station opened in 1918—just about when nostalgia for Harlem’s small-town past might be in vogue.

[Bridge illustration:New York Public Library Digital Gallery]

Is Sylvan Court the tiniest alley in Manhattan?

October 10, 2009

Unpaved and demapped, little Sylvan Court is a half-block blind alley off 121st Street between Lexington and Third Avenues. It’s an extension of equally obscure Sylvan Place, which runs from 120th to 121st.

Sylvancourt

The two-story houses on Sylvan Court were probably used as stables in the late 1800s, when Harlem was more of a sleepy village than the expansive urban neighborhood it would become by the early 20th century.

Sylvancourtcloseup

The homes aren’t in the greatest shape; the alleys of the West Village and Brooklyn Heights feature similar carriage houses that have been lovingly restored, not left to the elements. But they sure are charming. Unlike other alleys and mews in the five boroughs, they don’t have landmark protection.

Sylvan Court shouldn’t be confused with Sylvan Terrace—a better-restored mews dozens of blocks northwest.