Archive for the ‘Harlem’ category

Some Columbia University Buildings

July 22, 2008

One thing I rather admire about Columbia is the layout of the buildings. There are a bunch of them and they generally share a similar architecture (at least to my eye). Yet, their settings make them distinct and I never got the feeling of a grid where there was a building every X feet or so.

I did note that most of them have names, but often no description about what they are used for. Sometimes they have a descriptor carved into the beams, but I tend to doubt that they are still used for the original use. Well, I guess.

Anyway, the next building has a very simple name: Philosophy. I have little doubt as to the accuracy of that name. And for a hot, hot day; people seemed to be around it more than most of the other buildings. It sort of reminds me of the old saying “Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun.” Well, I was out there and so were the others…what does that classify us as?

But lots of the buildings have names like the next one: Dodge. I could make all sorts of bad jokes on that, but I’ll leave that up to my readers. I can say this: nice building. Largish, too.

Near Dodge is Lewisohn Hall. Hey, it got two words in its name (unlike Dodge).

The next one was one of the “cool” buildings. I really like the looks of this one: Earl Hall. Above the door mantle are the words: “Erected for the students that religion and learning may go hand in hand and character grow with knowledge.” I rather like that sentiment. I wonder if Earl Hall has anything to do with its ancient charge (“ancient” being a few decades old)?

More modern buildings do exist (and give lie to my earlier statement about “similar architecture”). Uris Hall is pretty centrally located. And it has a bit of modern sculpture (or however they want to classify it). Compare Uris and Earl and consider which one you’d like to go to. As for me (on that hot day); probably Uris as it was more likely to have central air. And a view of Earl Hall, maybe.

Avery Hall (below) is another one that I don’t know what it does. It is impressive, though.

Finally, a better shot of a building I mentioned in my earlier post: Journalism. As I understand it, this is where the Pulitzer Prizes are given.

I think this blog is safe from getting one of those.


Ankling Through Columbia University

July 21, 2008

This weekend was hot. Wowser, it was hot! And I decided to do my ankling about as far away from my home as you can get and still be in Manhattan: Columbia University.

I’ve been there a few times before, and every time I go; something drives me away. I don’t know why it happens, but it always does. This time it happened again; it was the heat and humidity that drove me back home. Maybe I only go there at times that something will go on and make me leave early.

But, I didn’t go away too quickly. I wandered over much of the campus, and was (as usual) impressed by it.

When you get off the 1 subway at 116th and get to the top; that’s where Columbia starts. Right across the street.

The entrance is pleasant, but one of the things that I always like is the little walkway right past the gates. It’s nicely tree-lined and very welcoming. The building on the left is, I believe, a theater/arts building while the building on the right is for journalism.

One thing that delights me is a little fake-out that they do. The next picture is of the Low Memorial Library. According to a plaque, it was donated in honor of Abiel Abbot Low and the first major building in this section (Morningside Heights) of Columbia. It was completed in 1897.

The fake-out? Well, it’s not a library. It’s an administrative and “ceremonial” building. The real library is well across the way. I had wondered why I never saw students flowing in and out of it until I discovered their dark little secret. Okay…it ain’t that dark of a secret and I’m sure Columbia has a whole bunch of genuine ones. But it’s the only one I’ve found in my wanderings.

Right in front of the “library” is a rather cool statue. It’s called “Alma Mater”. Very nicely done. I don’t know how old it is or the source of it (lots of their stuff has notations saying something like “donated by the Class of 1930”).

Oh, and Butler Library (the real library)? I mentioned it’s “across the way”. Here’s the view from the top of the Low Library’s steps. You can see “Alma Mater” down the way. The big building in the distance is the Butler Library (or so I’m told).

I wandered through Columbia for over an hour and took oodles of pics. But the day was hot and there were so few people around that nothing really happened. So, all I have to give you is a description and impressions. And I’ll do that over a number of posts; but I have to admit that my impression of Columbia is positive. Architecturally, it’s really nice. Academically, it’s top notch.

Oh, you might have noticed I categorized the place, at least in part, as Harlem. It likes to call itself Morningside Heights, but I view that as realtor-speak.


Holy Rosary Church in Spanish Harlem

July 19, 2008

During my recent wanderings of Spanish Harlem, I saw a sight that I knew was special. On 119th Street, just outside of the “Italian Harlem” area, was a nice looking church. I took just one picture. I figured it would just be another picture in my Spanish Harlem posting.

Wrong. It’s the Holy Rosary Church and I found it interesting enough to give it a solo post.  It turns out that it wasn’t part of the Italian Harlem area at all, but was founded by German and Irish worshippers in 1884 and the present building was done in 1900. 

I found a number of interesting things about the place.  First, it is a wonderful and impressive structure.  Second, according to the article I found on it, as late as 1975 it was doing Masses in English, Spanish, and Italian.  (I just like that idea.  Unfortunately, now it is just English and Spanish.)  Third, the website of the Church is a dead link.  C’mon guys, get with the program.  [UPDATE 8/8/08:  the website is active again.]  And, fourth, the place was locked up as tight as can be on a Saturday afternoon.  That’s sad.


Italian Harlem on Pleasant Avenue

July 17, 2008

Yeah. “Italian Harlem”. I didn’t know it existed until recently and found a very small article on it. I knew I was headed to Spanish Harlem and thought I’d stop by. The article had mentioned the area was very small and confined to just a single street (Pleasant Avenue) from 114th Street to 119th. I had to check it out. If nothing else, I figured I could get some good Italian food.

I also wanted to see a better Manhattan home for the Italians than the rapidly vanishing Little Italy.  (It turned out that the next day I went to Brooklyn and saw a thriving Italian area where the Giglio festival was held.  But that’s not Manhattan.)

Folks, just from my eyeballing, there’s very, very little left of Italian Harlem.

And I couldn’t find any restaurants. There were a couple of little foodstores like everyplace in Manhattan. I saw a number of people who could have been Italian (they didn’t look particularly Spanish/Hispanic to me, at least; and I heard a few talking in idiomatic American accents). But the place is just…zip.

It has a couple of impressive areas. The first was the “Manhattan Center for Science and Mathematics“. It’s a magnet high school for science and has a long history in the area.

So I wandered through the area. It was really, really empty. It had some nice buildings and the like, but nothing that made you want to move there or to renovate. If you go a little further to the north and west, in regular Harlem you’ll find lots of magnificent buildings (although many in sore need of some really heavy duty maintenance). Here, just okay stuff.

At the north end of Pleasant Avenue, there’s a huge expanse of an exercise area. Really, really big. And by big, I mean huge. All cemented flat and designed as a sports area. There was a cement baseball/softball area, there were a number of basketball hoops (I saw three or so just near the fence). But not a single person. The place, like most of Italian Harlem, just seemed to be…empty and locked up.

There are two major Churches in the area: Holy Rosary Church and Mt. Carmel. There’s even a small school in the area. Not unexpected and it was empty, too. Of course, I went on a Saturday and didn’t expect the kids to be hanging around there. But to have a huge exercise area just empty? I dunno. (It wasn’t in good repair, but seemed servicable for softball/kickball/whatever. The hoops were all bent out of shape, though.)

Pleasant Avenue is bounded by a park to the south (I’ll post on that separately) and what look like projects to the north. In between, it’s mostly just quiet. Now, in Manhattan that’s a good thing, but I had hoped for a little more.

For full disclosure, it did have one really nice feature. There were a number of community gardens scattered in the area. Regular readers know I love those community gardens and I did find one very unusual one (well, at least different) and I’ll post on those separately.


Pleasant Village Community Garden in Spanish Harlem

July 16, 2008

I’ve said it on this blog many times: NYC is filled with community gardens. Small and intimate, many of these are the work of a handful of volunteers and communities that want to have some small part of nature in this town. Yeah, we’ve got Central Park and a dozen other big parks; but there’s great pleasure in having a pleasant area all of your own…you and a few thousand of your neighbors.

In Spanish Harlem, on Pleasant Avenue are several of these gardens. And, of course, I went to ’em all. This first one is called Pleasant Village Community Garden. It’s somewhere around 119th Street or so. According to a nearly ruined sign on the exterior fence, it was created between 1978 and 1982 by Rose Gardella. However, it seems to have taken until 1997 to become a park.

The area of Harlem I was walking through was pretty deserted that day, but each of the gardens had people there. That’s the mark of a pretty good thing, I would say.

As I always love to point out, NYC parks (and gardens) generally have lots of places to sit.

All in all, this place really wasn’t a regimented garden. Stuff grew here and there. One thing I liked about it was the surrounding buildings. They looked pretty run down, but you don’t sneeze at a view of a garden in NYC, so I’d call the residents pretty fortunate to have one.

And speaking of the gardens, this was one that seemed to take the idea of a “garden” pretty seriously. There seemed to be a number of individual plots where residents had veggies growing. Now, that’s what makes a real garden.


Ankling Spanish Harlem

July 15, 2008

Well, I’ve pretty much done it. The one large area of Manhattan that I hadn’t explored to some degree was Spanish Harlem. I’ve been past it and I wandered through a small section right after I moved to NYC, but I hadn’t really explored. And now I have. That isn’t saying I’ve been everywhere; there are huge areas that I haven’t seen and zillions of small streets I haven’t been up and down. But, I don’t know of any “name” area I haven’t at least visited. Of course, it’s all in my own definition; some areas that I just consider parts of some neighborhood may be very distinct and reject the association.

But for my own sense of smug satisfaction; I’ve been everywhere.

But I’ll admit that I only did a tiny section of Spanish Harlem. Harlem is huge. Gigantic, even, at least by the way that NYC looks at it. Spanish Harlem, like every place else, has multiple names. Lots of folks call it East Harlem. But I like the sound of Spanish Harlem and I’ll keep calling it that.

When I wandered, my main steet of interest was 116th Street between 3rd Avenue and FDR. It’s the main business district area (at least east-west) from what I understand.

Lots of little stores, but there are quite a few chain store places coming in. But the below picture is just one of those shots that captures a lot of the flavor of the place. Perhaps a little more flattering than the rest really is, but there were parts that I liked.

But a lot of the area is just like the below. Ordinary. A bit run down, but not romantically so.

I wandered around for a while. What I was looking for was an area a bit like regular Harlem. That area, as I’ve mentioned a number of times, may be run down; but the architecture is often magnificent. The picture below doesn’t capture anything “magnificent”. Just moderate to okay.

There were two areas that did capture my attention. One of them below was pretty nice. Not perfect, but pretty nice and colorful. They lacked the stoops that would differentiate them from blah to wonderful. Stoops are good.

But mostly, it was just like the next picture. A place to live, but not really a place to visit. I had wanted much more. About the only thing that I liked about the area was the lack of traffic. The streets were nice and wide, too.

The next picture shows another of the better areas. It certainly needed fixing, but it had the makings of a nice place if you threw enough money at it. These really started to look like brownstones; but still, no stoops.

Once again, here’s a picture of wide, open, and empty streets. It was noonish on a Saturday. I know gas is expensive (I read the news and am happily car-less), but there oughta be somebody out.

Okay, below is my last picture of this part of Spanish Harlem. Taken over on 2nd Avenue near 120th Street. What’s interesting about this? Nothing for anyone else; but for me it was different. Or at least had something that I don’t often see. Take a look at the tall building in the center. About 80 percent up on the right side…is an airplane. Just heading to land at LaGuardia. But I so seldom see airplanes that I was absurdly pleased. Heck, sometimes it seems that I seldom see sky.


Christmas Eve in Harlem

December 31, 2007

I’d been away from Harlem for too long.  I knew I wanted to go back there during the cold times just to see how it was handling the change in weather.  When I realized that I was going to be off during the week of Christmas, I couldn’t resist and decided to go there on Christmas Eve, one of the busiest shopping days of the year.  And so I did.

And Harlem’s streets were nearly empty.  Here’s a shot of the heart of Harlem: Lenox and 125th.


A little further up Lenox Avenue.


I went a little bit south and found that a brownstone I posted about is still for sale.


The only public acknowledgment of the Christmas Season was at the Adam Clayton Powell Building.  They had a Christmas Tree.  (Of course, they would substitute the word “Holiday” for “Christmas” but I’m not that PC.)


Off to the right of the above picture is a nice mural.  It’s actually for a breast cancer clinic.


As I was wandering around 125th Street, one person wished me “Happy Holidays” before I could wish him a Merry Christmas.  Beaten to the punch!  It happens and I’m always happy for it.