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SEPTEMBER 28, 1912
RENTALS AND FREEHOLD VALUES IN 125th STREET
High Prices Paid By Merchants for Antiquated Stores—Some Indications
That Point to a Reconstruction Movement—Influence of New Transit.
IF any New Yorker who knows his New
York were asked what street, in pro¬
portion to Its local prominence and its
transportation facilities, presents the
most unattractive, even dilapidated, ap¬
pearance, he would name off hand
Harlem's busiest thoroughfare, 125th
This would not be very complimentary
to property owners on the street, nor flat¬
tering to the civic pride of Harlemites.
But It would, nevertheless, be quite true.
Harlem's greatest business thoroughfare
Ss more of a real estate paradox than
Fourth avenue was in 1905 or Times
Square in 1895. The evidences of a re¬
markable period of reconstruction, so
plainly discernible all over New York, and
naturally to be expected on so prominent
a crosstown thoroughfare as 125th street,
are here entirely lacking.
What has contributed to this unusual
condition, and how long will it continue?
Of these, the latter question, of course.
street as a wide through crosstown ar¬
tery, and the car service supplied by the
Second avenue surface line and the Har¬
lem railroad were beginning as early as
1868 to have some influence in directing
the drift of population.
In 1879 the Third avenue elevated line
was extended from 89th street to 129th
street and the express service established
later in the year. This same year also
marked an extension of the Sixth avenue
line from 104th street and Ninth avenue
to 125th street and Eighth avenue, and
a year later the Second avenue elevated
cars were pushed northward from 67th
street to 129th street.
It is important to observe that as late
as 1880 125th street was one of some
thirty-odd streets, between 59th and 134th
streets, that were, either in part or in
whole, not legally opened.
But the extension of the elevated lines
to 125th and 129th streets, at both_Third
and Eighth avenues, had a marked influ-
The great future in store for this thor¬
oughfare was, as has been said, early
impressed on the moving spirits of the
real estate market twenty-flve years ago—
to such an extent, indeed, that the ten¬
dency to establish and maintain a high ■
grade of values became a flxed habii;.
Since the early '90s comparatively few
sales have been made between Third jmd
Eighth avenues. There are today be¬
tween Madison and Eighth avenues prob¬
ably not more than two dozen separate
ownerships. This same dominating idea^
the future greatness of this thoroughfare
—was responsible two deca^aes ago for the
character of the improvements. Owners
appear to have thought it the wisest plan
lo improve with taxpayers or compara¬
tively inexpensive structures.
Meantime the re-narkable growth ot
local business has make possible a scale
of rental values out of all proportion to
the character of the improvements, and
it becomes an interesting question how
LOOKING WEST ON 123TH .STREET. FROM LENOX AVENUE,
SHOWING TRANSITION CHARACTER OP HIGHEST CLASS
LOOKING WEST FROM THIRD AVENUE. A LIVELY SHOPPING
AND AMUSBME.NT CENTER FOR lADJACENT POPULOUS
is the more important. But it Is inter¬
esting, nevertheless, to trace the causes
which have created out of this untown
thoroughfare one of the city's best-known
and highest-priced arteries of trade, and
incidentally to account for constructional
backwardness out of all keening with the
prevailing high fee and rental values.
Harlem at an early stage in the city's
development had its own corporate ex¬
istence and maintained it for a consider¬
able period after farm lands on the out¬
skirts of the original settlement to the
south had been absorbed by the parent
municipality. New York. ' Long after its
contemporary - settlements had lost their
identity Harlem maintained its local tra¬
ditions and prestige. Only those of .a
passing generation can to-day identify
Manhattanville without reference to the
, records. Yorkville means nothing to the
,' present generation. Harlem ts as much
' Harlem as it ever was.
The East Side of the city had always"
: had the advantage over the West Side.
In the matter of transportation. Thus, in
1858, following the traditional lines of in¬
tercity communication, the Second avenue .
horse cars were running as far north as .
1223 street. The "West Side was still an
essentially rural district. The street lay¬
out which had been established in 1811
by the Municipal Commission of 1807, and
surveyed in 1821, had indicated in a gen¬
eral way the future importance of 125th
ence in distributing population from the
lower portion of the city and in focussing
attention on this wide transverse thor¬
oughfare. The lateral streets witnessed
a period of marked constructional activ¬
ity. About 1880 tenements and brownstone
dwellings were erected In great numbers.
Not very long after this the necessary link
for connecting the chain of communica¬
tion between Harlem and the West Side
was provided in the crosstown surface
cars on 125th street.
The active building on the residential
streets in the early eighties was reflected
.quite markedly on 125th street. The block
between Seventh and Eighth avenues
may be taken as an Illustration, although
then, as today, it registered the highest
values. The block frora 125th to 124th
street on- the east side of Eighth avenue,
200x11)0, was T>o"ught by Eugene Hl^srins
in 1881 for $35,000, or less than .$200 a front
foot. This was considered a stiff price.
A year later it was sold with a building
loan for $60,000. When the buildings were
completed the block front was turned over
to Goldsmith & Plaut for $260,000. In
1884 the Blumstein plot, 62.6x100, on the
south side of 125th street, between Sev¬
enth and Eighth avenues, was bought for
$50,000, or about $800 a front foot. In
1888 Lachman, Morgenthau & Goldsmith
paid $70,000, or more than $1,100 a front
foot, for a plot 62.6x111 Just east of tho
one last mentioned.
much longer owners can ignore the neces¬
sity for bringing this thoroughfare up to
Ynodern standards of sanitary ani fire¬
proof construction, or how much longer
tenants will be satisfled with antiouated
and inadequate business housing for
which rentals comparing favorably with
some of t'le best downtown business
streets are demanded.
It is interesting now to consider pre¬
vailing fee values and rentals in this
great highway of local trade and amuse¬
ment; for 125th street, beside^ catering
to the more indispensable needs of a large
community. Is pre-eminently the amuse¬
ment center of Harlem, pnd to so-re ex¬
tent also of The Bronx and Washington
Heights. The usual method of quoting
from recent sales must be dispensed with
in this case, for sales are extremely in¬
frequent. Owners are as tenacious of
their holdirgs as they are unwilling to
The prime block is that between Sev¬
enth and Eighth avenues. Here the valu¬
ations are approximately on a basis of
between $5,000 and $6,000 a front foot.
This applies to the south side of the
street, which has the advantage, in com¬
mon with most east and wpst business
thoroughfares. On the north side quo¬
tations are a little lower. Values de¬
crease toward Madison avenue. Between
Fifth and Madison avenues $3,000 a front
foot would be a fair quotation. At Thira