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These Historic Harlem Properties May Become Landmarked

By Gustavo Solis | September 2, 2015 2:01pm
 According to the Landmarks Preservation Commission, St. Joseph's is the oldest existing church north of 44th Street. It is among a handful of buildings Uptown that will be considered for landmark designation in November.
According to the Landmarks Preservation Commission, St. Joseph's is the oldest existing church north of 44th Street. It is among a handful of buildings Uptown that will be considered for landmark designation in November.
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DNAinfo/Gustavo Solis

HARLEM — The fate of five historic properties, including two churches, a brewery, and a vintage movie theater, will be decided this fall.

After DNAinfo New York reported that the Landmarks Preservation Commission was going to remove nearly 100 buildings from consideration for landmark status, the agency yanked the plan and decided to hold public meetings on the subject.

“All of these landmarks that are on the backlog are exemplary of why landmarks are designated in the first place,” said historian Michael Henry Adams.

“The Yuengling brother’s brewery — how many brewery complexes survived in New York City? None. The Loew’s 175th Street Theater — there isn’t a more spectacular theater anywhere in the world.”

The public hearings for uptown properties will be on Nov. 5 and 12. Those who want to participate should submit their testimony to the Landmarks Preservation Commission by Oct. 29, according to the LPC.

“I hope this calls attention to all of the other precious sites that we have that are not protected,” said Marina Ortiz of the East Harlem Preservation.

The hearings are an opportunity for people to voice their support to landmark the properties. The Landmarks Commission will consider their testimony when deciding to prioritize their designation or remove them from the calendar, according to their website.

Ortiz, a local preservationist, believes this is a unique opportunity to save part of history in neighborhoods with little landmark protection.

“I was looking at this the other day and I was thinking, wow, as I go through Manhattan there are a lot of historic districts but none in East Harlem,” she said.

 

Below is a list of the properties. Information about the building’s history comes form the Landmarks Committee’s research staff unless otherwise noted:

YMCA’s Jackie Robinson Building on 181 W. 135th St.

Built: 1918

History: The YMCA’s branch for black New Yorkers was originally on 53rd Street but moved up to 135th Street following the migration of blacks into Harlem. The center became a focal point of political and social activity for the city’s African American population. It hosted lectures, plays, concerts and workshops. The YMCA also became the headquarters for organizations like the National Coordinating Committee on Civil Rights and the Harlem Writer’s Workshop.

St. Joseph’s Church on 401 W. 125th St.

Built: Mid-1800’s

History: Historians believe this is the oldest existing church north of 44th Street. It was built by German Catholics before the Civil War. The first public hearing to landmark the structure was in 1966. It has been under review ever since.

Yuengling Brewery Company Complex at 1361 Amsterdam Ave.

Built: Early 1800’s

History: The brewery was first known as the Excelsior Brewery and later the Manhattan Brewery. When Yuengling took it over in roughly 1875 they expanded the complex. During prohibition, the building was used as a dairy, cold storage warehouse, and laundry facility.

St. Paul’s Church and Rectory on 121 E. 117th St.

Built: Early 1900’s

History: According to the St. Paul’s website, the Catholic Church was one of the first six erected in New York City around the 1830’s when Harlem was mostly rural. It was the only church between New Rochelle and St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

Loew’s 175th Street Theater on 4140 Broadway

Built: 1932

History: It was considered the “finest and most exuberant” examples of the movie palaces built in the 1930’s. It was built by the “King of Theaters” Thomas Lamb who, according to the New York Times, built nearly 50 of them in the city including the RKO on 81st Street and the Audubon on 165th Street. The theater covers an entire city block and is big enough to accommodate 3,700 people.