The Dakota, the Apthorp, and the Astor regularly top the list of the most incredible apartment houses on the Upper West Side.
A bit farther north on West 116th Street is a lesser-known building that belongs in that group: Graham Court.
It’s a box-like eight-story structure containing 100 apartments that spans the block to 117th Street at Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard.
Designed by the men behind the Apthorp and Astor, Graham Court opened in 1901 and was considered Harlem’s first luxury apartment house, thanks to its limestone facade, Gustavino tiles, and servants’ quarters on the top floor.
(Though I doubt 116th Street counts as Harlem today, apparently it did 100 years ago.)
“Graham Court’s residents, all of whom were rich and white, entered the building through a gracious arch that led into a grand inner courtyard built over an underground stable,” wrote Jonathan Gill in Harlem: The Four Hundred Year History From Dutch Village to Capital of Black America.
Like a lot of developers who rushed to cash in on the growth of Harlem at the turn of the century, the people behind Graham Court probably thought it would remain rich and white forever.
But a 1904 real-estate crash left blocks of empty buildings. African-American New Yorkers began relocating uptown, filling those buildings. In 1928, the first black resident moved into Graham Court, according to a New York Times article.
Graham Court hit hard times in the 1960s and 1970s. But the facade was landmarked in 1984, and though I don’t know what the apartments inside look like, from the street this remnant of Gilded Age New York appears to be well cared for.