Extension to Mount Morris Park Historic District Designated

A map of the approved extension. Image credit: LPC

A map of the approved extension. Image credit: LPC

Commission decided to retain boundaries as originally presented, after considering questions raised at July hearing. On September 22 2015, the Landmarks Preservation Commission voted to designate the Mount Morris Park Historic District Extension, composed of the 276 properties on six blocks. The new district adjoins and shares a development history with the existing Mount Morris Park Historic District, designated in 1971.

The extension, with more than 250 rowhouses and twelve apartment buildings, possesses a variety of residential architectural styles of the late-19th and early-20th centuries. The district lies along Lenox Avenue, comprising adjoining side streets and roughly bounded by West 118th and West 124th Streets, and Marcus Garvey Park to the east. The area was part of the earliest residential development in Harlem following the expansion of rapid transit to upper Manhattan around 1880. The masonry rowhouses that line the street include examples of Second Empire, Queen Anne, and Romanesque Revival-style architecture. The apartment buildings were constructed after the first wave of development in the period between 1900 and 1920.

The development of the area originally served a prosperous middle class, later attracting a population of Eastern European Jewish immigrants who converted the rowhouses into multi-family dwellings. In the 1920s, the neighborhood established itself as a primarily African-American community, and a center of African-American culture as it largely remains today.

At a hearing on July 21, representatives of Congressman Charles Rangel and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer spoke in support of designation, as did several members of community and preservationist organizations. The Real Estate Board of New York recommended that six properties be carved out of the district before designation, while a local property owner argued designation should only include rowhouses, not the area’s apartment buildings, which were generally of a later time period and different architectural style.

In response to concerns raised at the hearing, Landmarks Research Department staff conducted additional analysis, after which they recommended the extension’s borders not be altered. Staff member Theresa Noonan said the south side of West 123rd Street, which had been questioned because it included a vacant lot and a community garden, should be retained because it also contained the oldest buildings in the district. Noonan also said the apartment buildings were consistent in age and style with those in the previously designated district.

Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan urged commissioners to accept the Research Department’s recommendations, and said she thought it was important to respond to issues raised at hearings. Srinivasan stated she was proud to verse the extension’s designation, and she identified the district’s “extraordinary” social and cultural history as major reason why.

Srinivasan led a unanimous vote for designation, to a round of applause from assembled community members and preservationists.

LPC: Mount Morris Park Historic District Extension, Manhattan (LP-2571) (Sept. 22, 2015).

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