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NYC – East Harlem – 116th to 121st Streets

Every year “Open House New York” holds a city-wide event that allows opens places that are not usually open to the public.  I took a free tour of east Harlem today. I had previously walked this area on my own and thought it would be nice to get some “expert” information. Here are the highlights:


This building is quite impressive. It is the Benjamin Franklin High School (Math & Science). It was the first NYC school to be integrated from the very day it opened in 1941. Also, it was the first high school in east Harlem. Students had to travel to central Harlem for their secondary schooling. Some say it the building was payback for their support of Mayor La Guardia’ election.


I took a picture of this restaurant as it is reportedly the hardest place to get a reservation. It has only 11 tables and is open only from Wednesday to Friday. It does not serve lunch.


I will probably put this in a future blog as well. I simply mention it here because it houses a statue of a Madonna that is only one of four that have had papal blessing. It was the subject of a book, “The Madonna of 115th Street”.


I thought this little house was a little out-of-place but later found out that many of the first immigrants were German. It is unusual to see a building with a mansard roof in the city.

This church was originally call St Cecilia but is now the Holy Rosary Church. I mention this church because it was originally downtown but was floated up the east river and hauled by wagon to it site on east 119th street.

This building was a surprise as it seemed so out-of-place. I was told though that it does fit the neighborhood as it reflects the many of the colors of Puerto Rico. Also, it is a “green” building.


I add the following an it is where the first pizza was sold in slices. It has been an institution in NYC but over the last few years there have been other contenders for the use of the name Patsy’s.


 building is probably the most impressive of the neighborhood. It is a gothic giant that once housed the Harlem Courts. I think it now houses several government agencies. I am going to go back to see if I can get inside.

TI had a few surprises on this tour and this spot on east 121st street was one more. It is called the Sylvia Court Mews. Originally a stable but converted to housing. Sylvan Court is the remainder of Harlem’s old Eastern Post Road, which led from the city to Boston .Sylvan Court is a small dead-end private street. It is unpaved, and contains several 1880s townhouses.

Mews are typically former 19th century stable yards that end abruptly in an alley-like layout. The carriage houses are only two levels or so and have historically been converted to cottage-like living quarters for the lower middle classes. In the New York City area, there remains the Sniffen Mews (lower photo) in Murray Hill, the Washington Mews by Washington Square Park, Sylvan Terrace in upper Harlem and the Brooklyn Heights Mews. All of the four have been landmarked and restored.





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