Saturday, October 29, 2011

125th Street, one of the most important streets in New York City Part 1

This 125th Street looking west from 7th Avenue. This is in the middle of World War II, the street cars still running across this well traveled and even then congested street but the marquee's are the give away. DuBarry Was A Lady starring Lucille Ball, Red Skelton and Tommy Dorsey & His Orchestra was released in 1943 and is playing at Oscar Hammerstein's Harlem Opera House.  Ethel Waters is at the Apollo and Johnny Come Lately, also 1943, starring James Cagney and (featured prominently on the the marquee) Oscar winner Hattie McDaniel. This was the Broadway of Harlem. On 7th Avenue between 124th and 125th was the Harlem Casino, built in the late 1880's when Harlem was populated by a large German Jewish community and was largely Caucasian. In 1910, local resident (111th and 7th Avenue) Marcus Loew converted the casino into a 1606 seat theater equipped for movies, vaudeville and legit theater. After the turn of the century Harlem became home to a large community of middle class African Americans. Even with the population shift, African Americans were not served at many local restaurants, not admitted into various theaters and when they were admitted, only in the balcony. This strip was often referred to as the great "white" way.
By World War II, as the demographics of the area changed, so did the Jim Crow policies. Economics dictated this change. This may explain why Hattie McDaniel is featured so prominently on the marquee of Loew's Victoria.

This is a detail from an 1867 map showing what we now refer to as 125th street. The little village, the cluster of buildings anyway, is the village of Manhattanville.  East of Amsterdam Avenue, known then as 10th Avenue, 125th street intersected with a street called Manhattan Street. Today, the intersection is still there, sort of. The original cross streets have been renamed or obliterated by Morningside Gardens and the Grant Houses. If you look at a Google map of this area, you will see that if you draw a straight line, east to west across the grid, LaSalle Street is 125th Street west of Amsterdam Avenue. There are extreme anomalies in the grid here, West 125th street intersected by West 129th Street for example. The original name of the subway stop at 125th Street was Manhattan Street.

This is part of the area  called Manhattanville. There is still a Manhattanville Post Office on West 125th Street. The NYCTA bus depot is referred to as "The Manhattanville Depot". Manhattanville was a self contained village dating from the very early 19th century. A very mixed neighborhood in that there was the Tiemann Paint Works, The Tiemann Estate (on what was the southern border of Manhattanville) Convent of the Sacred Heart, Manhattanville College (now located in Westchester County) and the Oswald Ottendorfer estate running from Broadway (or the Boulevard as it was known then) to the river beginning at West 135th Street. There was also a passenger station located at grade level (meaning street level) at 130th street. Although passenger service on the line had ended long ago, the little station house stood until the 1920's.  Between the Tiemann and the Ottendorfer estates, there was this valley, and there still is. At the center of this valley, the heart of the community called Manhattanville, was the industrial / working class section. This picture shows a house that lasted until at least 1931 (this is the date of the photo). It stood on what was 127th street just east of "Old Broadway".

This is the same early 19th century wood frame house from the north side of it. This structure probably predates the Civil War. It stood on"Old Broadway",  a street that still exists.  It is a remnant of the old Bloomingdale Road continuation north of 111th Street, Kingsbridge Road.

To give you an idea of the area, in the bottom left corner there is a small shaded rectangle with CLAREMONT printed next to it. That was originally an estate, then it became a tavern. In 1815 when it was still a private home, Joesph Bonaparte, the exiled King of Spain and Napolean's brother, hid out there incognito style. It sat just north of Grant's Tomb. It was gone by the early 1950's and it is now a playground. The road with the pinkish shading is now Broadway. The next major street to the left (or east of Broadway) is 10th Avenue (now Amsterdam Avenue). The road that runs between Broadway and Amsterdam at an angle is the old Kingsbridge Road, now called "Old Broadway". Old Broadway no longer exists south of Manhattan Street. The house in the previous picture was located along Manhattan Street between Kingsbridge Road / Old Broadway and 10th / Amsterdam Avenue. The dark little rectangles and squares are houses and I believe that the house from the previous photos is there.

This place makes me want to get gas. We are looking east from the corner of 12th Avenue and Manhattan Street (125th Street). There is still a gas station on this site and the service area behind the pumps is now a defunct car wash. In the background is the Sheffield Farms milk processing facility, making such things as Sealtest Milk.

This is yet a different gas station. There are still 2 gas stations along Manhattan Street (125th) and I believe that this is the one further east from the one below. I am basing this on the fact that you can see the Sheffield Farms sign in the background in the previous picture. I also believe that we are looking west towards the Riverside Drive Viaduct which would place this station east of the previous picture.

This is looking west towards Broadway and the arch of the I.R.T. Manhattan street station. The house in the foreground is the same house in the March 4th photos. This is about 1920.

This was originally 75 Manhattan Street, later it became 513 West 125th. It was gone sometime in the first 20 years of the 20th century. It was the home of a New York City Council Member Isaac A. Hooper. Mr. Hooper served from 1856 - 7 while he was in residence. His son John Cooper became the Register of the City of New York also lived here.

According to the New York City record of registered voters of 1887 and 1888, James, Abraham and Richard Pettits called this home. Originally 77 Manhattan Street, later 515 West 125th

This is the Dr. John Ferdinand home at 230 West 125th Street. It was located on the south side of 125th Street just west of 7th Avenue. The site now is included in the lot upon which the old Blumstein's Department Store building still stands today. The good Doctor Ferdinand lived here from 1880 to 1887, after residing on West 127th Street during the 1870's. This house is on the real 125th street as it is way east of the intersection of Manhattan Street and 125th Street.

This is on the north side of 125th street between First and Second Avenues. This picture represents several things. It is a homage to an ever-changing city. We have a middle class single family wood frame home from the mid nineteenth century sandwiched between an industrial building on the left and a tenement building on the right.

The frame house has a mansard roof judging by the shadows being cast by the projecting windows. There was a major flirtation, or as Christopher Gray in the Sunday Times called it, a "heyday of mansard roofs" between 1868 and 1873. One of the earliest uses of the this french architectural import was at 17 East 128th Street.

The buildings were built at different times, as the neighborhood changed, so did what was being built. By the early 1880's the area became more accessible with the opening of the Second Avenue El. These structures, none more than 85 years old in this 1932 photograph, are soon to vanish. By 1934 construction for the Triboro Bridge will be in full swing and the entire block would disappear.

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