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On a sunny day, owners & occupants can be seen sitting on the rocking chair porches

On a sunny day, owners & occupants can be seen sitting on the rocking chair porches

The historic Astor Row in Harlem dates back to land purchased by John Jacob Astor in 1844 for the sum of $10,000 on what is now 130th Street between Lenox Avenue and Fifth Avenue in Harlem. It wasn’t until 1880 though, through the efforts of his grandson William, that 28 semi-attached row houses began construction.

Astor Row was completed in 1883, but William died in 1882 of an aneurysm while in Paris.  After his death,  the houses were divided among his three grandchildren.  They stayed in the family until 1911. In the 1920s the row houses were originally rented for $1,100 per year, with a waiting list.  Each row house had a wooden porch and gated front yard.  Gradually, though, the houses slipped into decay and by the 1970s, many of the porches were lost to rot.

There are 28 semi-attached houses with wooden porches

There are 28 semi-attached houses with wooden porches

The Astor Row Houses were designated a New York City Landmark in 1981 despite their decaying condition.  The community came together to raise money and restore their facade, improve the plumbing, heating and the electrical.  Together, several preservation groups, banks, foundations and the Abyssinian Development Corporation–along with a $1.7 million dollar donation by Brook Astor to the New York Landmark Conservancy–moved forward with this restoration.  Even Ella Fitzgerald performed a benefit in 1992 at Radio City Music Hall to help raise money for the restoration.

Many of the row houses have been restored - a few still sit boarded up

Many of the row houses have been restored – a few still sit boarded up

Every summer you can see beautifully tended gardens from one end of 130th Street to the other.

Every summer you can see beautifully tended gardens from one end of 130th Street to the other

Today, most of the houses have been restored but a few still remain unoccupied and boarded up.Many of the owners and renters take great pride in their summer gardens.  They are as different as the people who tend them and range from traditional annuals and perennials to heavily manicured–or very much overgrown. Even an occasional vegetable garden.

Several of the row houses still have one and two bedroom apartments for rent

Several of the row houses still have one and two bedroom apartments for rent

Today, while Astor Row looks very much the same as it did when they were built, the surrounding area– particularly on Lenox Avenue–have sprouted  coffee houses, a condominium, a new supermarket and even a gourmet mini-donut shop.  Nonetheless, you can still find some rentals among them.  There are one and two bedrooms, some modernized, some with original details like marble fireplace mantles.  A few of them have been sold with prices going as high as over $2 million dollars.

The row houses are 20 feet wide, made of red brick and are 3 story's high

The row houses are 20 feet wide, made of red brick and are 3 story’s high

The 28 Astor Row Houses occupy the south side of the street between Lenox Avenue and Fifth Avenue, while the north side of the street has the traditional townhouses pictured below. You can visit Astor Row easily by taking the #2/3 to Lenox Avenue and 125th Street, and taking a pleasant five block walk North, past Red Rooster, Sylvia’s and Maysles Cinema.

Traditional townhouses, along with a church, are on the North side of the street

Traditional townhouses, along with a church, are on the North side of the street

Original watercolor of Astor Row painted by Lynn Lieberman-AFineLyne

Original watercolor of Astor Row painted by Lynn Lieberman – AFineLyne

Get in touch with the author @AFineLyne

For more in the area Summer Sizzles on Lenox Avenue

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