The Recovering Attorney’s Brush with Harlem History!

It has just recently come to my attention that Madame C J Walker and I had something in common…..we have both lived in homes/buildings designed by Vertner Tandy (1885-1949), New York State’s first Black registered architect!  For me, the blogger who waxes poetically and wistfully about all things New York in general and Harlem specifically–this is a great find!

I’ve posted about Tandy in the recent past.  Born in Lexington, Kentucky, Tandy like many upwardly mobile Blacks, found his way to Harlem in the early 1900s.  Tandy began his education at Tuskegee Institute and later transferred to the Ivy League, Cornell University, to obtain his degree in architecture.  While at Cornell, Tandy along with 6 other Black male students co-founded Alpha Phi Alpha in 1909, the first Black Greek letter fraternity in the United States.

Fast forward….Tandy being the first Black registered architect in New York State and the first Black member of the AIA (American Institute of Architecture), became the sought after architect of prominent Black Harlem residents.

Not only did he design Madame Walker’s elegant side by side Harlem townhouses (Tandy is said to be the only Black person to have designed a brownstone in Manhattan) he also designed her country home, Villa Lewaro in Irvington, New York.  He went on to design Harlem’s historic St.Phillip’s Episcopal Church (leading church for New York’s Black Episcopalians), Small’s Paradise, the famous elegant, high-brow Harlem nightclub, Mother Zion A.M.E. Church, AND in 1948, a year before his death, Tandy designed the Ivey Delph Apartments located on beautiful, historic Hamilton Terrace (Hamilton Terrace has been named one of Manhattan’s most beautiful streets by the New York Times)—the same Ivey Delph Apartments, where it all began for the wee The Recovering Attorney and her young, ambitious parents!  We lived at 19 Hamilton Terrace (the Ivey Delph Apartments) during my formative years.  Now more about the Ivey Delph Apartments…..

The Ivey Delph Apartments at 19 Hamilton Terrace–the elegant, Moderne style apartment building is unique for its restraint and compatibility of scale with its neighboring elegant, historic brownstones.  Designed in 1948 by Vertner Tandy, the first licensed Black architect in New York–developed by Dr. Walter Ivey Delph, a Black prominent Harlem Hospital doctor and real estate investor (Tandy’s neighbor on Striver’s Row) who saw the apartments as an opportunity to provide upscale, elegant, “balcony” living for Blacks.  The Ivey Delph Apartments was New York’s first large-scale private apartment building developed and designed by Blacks for Blacks.   The 6 story, 48 unit beige brick building retain its historic architectural details including a series of curved projecting balconies that rise above the buildings recessed entrance.  The Ivey Delph Apartments were placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2005.

Again, a great personal Harlem history find for The Recovering Attorney!  But I must add that though Vertner Tandy was the first Black architect to leave his mark on Harlem, other Black architects have followed in his footsteps….my great-uncle was one of the leading architects of the Harlem State Office Building (renamed the Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. State Office Building); he also designed numerous Harlem condo units and conversions in the late 1980s.

Harlem has always been On My family’s Mind.  Ha!

COPYRIGHT 2011.  The Recovering Attorney Un-Blog(tm).  All Rights Reserved.  And I will sue.  Ha!

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