BY MARTHA WILKIE | Strivers’ Row in Harlem (official name: St. Nicholas Historic District) is a late-19th-century set of row houses famed for its elegant architecture and unified facades.
Located on 138th and 139th Sts., between Adam Clayton Powell Jr. and Frederick Douglass boulevards, this enclave was home to notable African-American figures, such as Adam Clayton Powell Jr. — back when the adjacent boulevard was plain old Seventh Ave. Famed architects such as Stanford White designed the striking area in different architectural styles.
The original developer restricted it to “whites only,” but he went bankrupt, and by 1919, the Equitable Life Insurance Company opened it up to people of color.
“Prevented from buying these houses made them irresistibly attractive to African-Americans who had been told the houses were too ‘good’ for them,” said Michael Henry Adams, author of “Harlem: Lost and Found, an Architectural and Social History.” “When Robert Moses wanted to demolish Strivers’ Row in the 1930s, the homeowners — mostly black by this time —universally protested the destruction of their homes.”
Michael Henry Adams knows Harlem. Trained in historic preservation at Columbia, he conducts tours in Harlem and writes; his next book will be “Homo Harlem: Lesbian and Gay Life in the African-American Cultural Capital.”
As lovely as Strivers’ Row is, it’s a challenge to maintain the original level of unity.
“Strivers’ Row has been diminished in recent years,” Adams said, “by ineffective regulation by the Landmarks Preservation Commission to ensure that the unifying elements are maintained, as opposed to the natural impulse that many have to give their homes individual character. Also important is how it’s been misinterpreted. Signs refer to horses, implying a stable once stood in the service alleys behind the houses.”
Here are two listings on Strivers’ Row and two more in Harlem:
A row house at 246 W. 139th St. is on the market, featuring a nicely renovated kitchen and bathrooms, roof deck and rare private garage. Four bedrooms, four-and-a-half baths. $3 million.
Right nearby, at 250 W. 139th St., a sumptuously renovated five-bedroom, five-bath row house with windows on three sides is also up for sale. $4.25 million.
Also in Harlem, at 171 E. 117th St., a rental with two decorative fireplaces, three bedrooms, and one bath is asking $3,250 a month.
For sale in West Harlem, at 537 W. 133rd St., is a two-bedroom, one-bath, with an affordable price (and income restrictions) and a newly renovated kitchen, for $269,000.