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The walls in both rooms of Harlem's Heaven filled with color

The walls in every room of Harlem’s Heaven are filled with color

Visit Harlem on any given Sunday morning and you’ll see colorful and over-the-top church hats on every avenue and street. Rivaling those on view at the Easter Parade on Fifth Avenue, these hats were meant to get God’s attention with a dizzying array of ribbons, fabric feathers and whatnots. It’s wearable art, Harlem style, and today we will take you to five hat stores

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Martin Luther King Jr, Coretta Scott King, Mayor Wagner NYC Untapped CitiesMayor Robert F. Wagner shakes hands with Coretta Scott King. Photo via the Library of Congress

Coretta Scott King called MLK Day “a people’s holiday,” but it’s hard to resist honoring the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who had some of his most important moments here in New York City.  Below we’ve summarized King’s relationship to New York in 10 vignettes.

1. Blumstein’s Department Store (1958)

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Located in Marcus Garvey Park in Harlem, the watchtower originally cost $2,300 in 1857

Located in Marcus Garvey Park in Harlem, the watchtower originally cost $2,300 in 1857

As the only surviving watchtower of the original thirteen dotting Manhattan, we have been paying particular attention to the much anticipated renovation of the Harlem Fire Watchtower.  Built between 1855 and 1857, it was the only way to spot fires and sound an alert until electric telegraphs were installed in 1878. The watchtower is located at the highest part of the Acropolis in the center of Marcus Garvey Park, which was rebuilt as part of the WPA jobs program. The cast iron structure was built by Julius H. Kroehl and designed by James Bogardus at a cost of $2,300. The bell inside weights 10,000 pounds alone .

Age and weather have taken their toll, bringing together a community effort to raise the funds for a restoration. Scaffolding started going up this past December and the dismantling will begin this month. Each piece will be labeled, crated and moved to a storage facility in Queens by Nicholson & Galloway, Inc. with Allen Architectual Metals consulting.

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Located on the garden level of 419A Convent Avenue

Located on the garden level of 419A Convent Avenue

Living in a city with so many galleries, it’s impossible to see them all.  But when we heard of an abstract art exhibit that included works by Norman Lewis, Sam Gilliam, Barbara Bullock, Geraldine McCullough and Charles Alston–all at the same time–we couldn’t resist and headed north to one of the oldest galleries specializing in African-American Art in the historic Sugar Hill section of Harlem.

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Located on Lenox Avenue between 146th and 147th Streets in Harlem

Located on Lenox Avenue between 146th and 147th Streets in Harlem

Harlem’s Mother Clara Hale Bus Depot has come a long way since 1890, when it was a two-story trolley barn. Modified as a bus depot in 1939, renovated in 1990 and was named in honor of Mother Clara Hale in 1993.  Even with the 1990 renovation, the facility wasn’t accommodating the needs of the MTA or the community, with buses forced to idle on Lenox Avenue for lack of room, and so many buses on 147th Street that often the cars couldn’t get by. The building was demolished in its entirety to make way for a more modern facility.

The $262 million project was a joint effort of the MTA and surrounding community, addressing not only the needs of the MTA but also the concerns of the people who live in the area.  MTA Arts & Design joined in the effort, choosing artist Shinque Smith to do a large-scale mosaic piece titled “Mother Hale’s Garden” for the facade facing Lenox Avenue.  There was a concentrated effort to employ locals, from the guard service to engineering and cleanup.

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horse-carriage-nyc-untappedImage via Library of Congress

After noticing how many “fake” mews there are around New York, we decided to look into actual mews that have been preserved from the 19th century. Before the automobile, when the only way to get around was on a horse or being draw by one in a carriage, horses inhabited the city and actually played a huge role in its functioning. These valuable horses needed stables where they could rest and be cared for, so owners bought land and built rows of stables and carriage houses–also known as mews.

When the automobile took over and the mews were no longer needed many of these rows were destroyed, but thankfully some were converted for residential or commercial purposes. Converted mews and carriage houses that have been carefully preserved give us a glimpse into the past; a New York lost to the modern age. Here we share 9 of NYC’s remaining mews.

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