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Krispy Kreme in Penn Station

Here’s what the Untapped Cities staff is reading in the HQ today!

hyperart thomasson weird architecture untapped cities bushwick brooklyn new york cityThe former first floor entrance of a building in Bushwick. Image via Instagram user senorwingleton

Have you ever noticed those fixtures of a building which serve no purpose? Like a staircase with no door, or shutters without a window? These architectural relics are named Thomassons, after the baseball player Gary Thomasson, who missed so many balls he was nicknamed the “Electric Fan.”

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The Strivers Row townhomes designed by architects Price & Luce

The Striverss Row townhomes designed by architects Price & Luce

If you’ve ever walked the area on 138th and 139th streets between Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. and Frederick Douglass Boulevards, you might have noticed three rows of beautiful townhouses. Perhaps you’ve seen the odd marker, “Private Road, Walk Your Horses,” painted onto the concrete columns that support intricate curled rod-iron gates leading into private parking for said townhouses. 

Strivers’ Row got its name from the notable Harlemites who called these stately buildings home. Names like Vertner Tandy, W. C. Handy, Fletcher Henderson, Bill ‘Bojangles’ Robinson, Eubie BlakeAdam Clayton Powell Jr. and a host of successful African-American doctors, lawyers and other professionals. They were considered to be the up-and-coming in the African-American community–the Strivers.

On Sunday, October 5th, you’ll have a chance to see the inside and outside of the homes on Strivers Row during their second annual House Tour, “Strivers’ Row and Beyond”.  There are several ways to do the tour from self-guided to a walking tour with Harlem author and historian, Michael Henry Adams.

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IMG_1989 macy's

Today, we take a look at some of New York City’s most notable architectural holdouts–those buildings that refused to be demolished in the face of oncoming development and remain today, curiously and sometimes incongruously in the urban landscape.

1. Macy’s Shopping Bag at 34th Street

Recently, the giant shopping bag at the front of Macy’s made its way onto our Daily What?! series. Well, really we mean the building covered by the Macy’s bag, an architectural holdout that forced Macy’s to build around rather than over it. But it wasn’t so much that the building owner refused to move, as he was holding the corner unit hostage hoping to force Macy’s to give up its earlier location on 6th Avenue and 14th Street. Macy’s called the bluff, so the owner demolished the building and replaced it with a 5-story building on which Macy’s started advertising on in 1945. Even today, it’s still owned by a separate entity from Macy’s, the Rockaway Company.

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Currently abandoned interior of the "Rennie" Source:  AbandonedNYC

Currently abandoned interior of the Ballroom inside the  “Rennie”
Source: AbandonedNYC

If you were to transport yourself back in time to Harlem in the 1920s, and in particular, to the corner of Seventh Avenue between 137th and 138th Streets, you would find yourself in front of the The Renaissance Theater and Casino.  The popularity of jazz joints made Harlem a destination during the 1920′s.  Leading the way were the big three–The Cotton Club, located on the corner of 142nd Street and Lenox Avenue, the stunning Savoy Ballroom, which covered an entire city block on Lenox Avenue between 140th-141st Streets, and Connie’s Inn located on Seventh Avenue at 131st Street.  But the only club open to African-Americans was The Renaissance Theater and Casino.

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We’ve got an exciting batch of tours planned for this fall, with a great deal to explore in the great city of New York, including the escape routes for a former speakeasy, the epic Brooklyn Army Terminal, a vertical climb up the Cathedral of St John the Divine, a walking tour of the Tenderloin, New York City’s cradle of vice, and more dates for a tour of the Woolworth Building.

Speakeasy Tour & Cocktail at Museum of American Gangster – September 13th, 2pm (2 tickets left!)

Museum of American Gangster-Speakeasy-Safes-East Village-NYC Discover the secrets of a former speakeasy on St. Mark’s Place in the East Village, with access to mafia tunnel escape routes and artifacts, like one of two original safes that held enough money to buy the entire Lower East Side. The tour guide from the Museum of American Gangster will also give us a walkthrough of the museum that will conclude with a vintage cocktail at the bar of the theater 80 St. Marks, an area authentic to the original speakeasy.

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