Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Boro Hotel

The Boro Hotel, long condemned at 125th and 5th, appears to be coming down. I passed by yesterday and found it shrouded in demolition netting, its cornice wrecked. I was unable to get a picture, so these images from my visit to 125th last fall will have to do. (If you've got a shot, please add it to the VNY Flickr pool with any info you might have about this building...and here's a pic of the shrouded hotel.)


pics: my flickr



I'm not sure what's coming to this corner--covered above by a car advertisement showing the city's prickly, sleek vision for this neighborhood--but a possible suspect is this luxury hotel:



I love the Boro Hotel's yellow sign with its 1970s(?)-style typeface, but sadly can't find any information about the place.

However, on the first floor, on the 5th Ave side, there was a well-known, locally owned restaurant called La Famille, opened in 1958 by two sisters, Willette Craine Murray and Viola James, with their husbands, Oswald and Ben. According to Ms. Murray's obituary, she was one of the first African-American women to work on 125th Street, a position she fought for by marching in picket lines. She washed dishes in a dime-store and later helped to build La Famille into a Harlem favorite.



La Famille is gone and all traces of it will soon vanish, too, under the crush of Harlem's rezoning. This weekend, you can join The Coalition to Save Harlem in a human chain that will stretch the length of 125th Street, from river to river, and back through generations, back to Ms. Murray and all the people who fought for the right to make a dime, to build and nurture businesses of their own--businesses that are now being taken away by the new shapers of the city, people like "blue-blooded Upper East Side A-lister" Amanda Burden who was blasted last month by Harlem historian and author Michael Henry Adams. His angry words to her are well worth repeating:

"You're a rich, rich, rich horrible person. You're destroying our communities. You're a rich, rich socialite. You're a rich, rich socialite. How dare you! You're destroying Harlem. You're getting rid of all the black people."

9 comments:

Steph said...

I was just driving west on 125th street last week and took a photo of the hotel sign as well. I truly couldn't believe how quickly that long stretch of street has literally become a long large mall. Anything with any sort of personality and history to it is being wiped out at a really rapid pace. I know we've all read about this but to view it and take it all in was kind of chilling. To think this is what is being held up as city progress that is good for the city is scary.
Also I have wanted to tell you that I think the Village Yogurt on 15/6th Ave that you have written about previously has closed. It has had the gates over the store for the past few weeks.
Love your site.

Anonymous said...

I live three blocks from the Boro Hotel and I knew that this was going to happen. I am surprise a "fire" didn't occur there as what happened at the old Men's Walker's store (on 125th street and Lennox). I have lived in Harlem most of my life and year by year my neighborhood is becoming more granola. This saddens me.

Anonymous said...

I live four blocks north of the Boro Hotel and have been dreaming of restoring it to a new glory... sadly, i do not have the income right now. If anyone has information on the eventual demolition, please post what you learn.

Anonymous said...

I participated in the Hands Across 125th street and even though it did not stretch river to river it was great to be apart of. Michael Henry Adams was next to me, his voice booming " Save Harlem Now!". Amazing how officials and individuals with biased views look see the anti-rezoning as being pro-black or some other nonsense. Harlem is made up of people from all skin colors and backgrounds.

And interesting observation, not one tourt bus came down 125th while the rally was taking place.

thea said...

I'm not sure when it started but noticed that demolition has begun, the top half of the building has been knocked down so I imagine it'll be totally gone in a matter of days... so sad that people think it makes more sense to build a huge homogeneous hotel/condo tower rather than restoring an obviously beautiful and charming old building. Folks just do not seem to have any sense and just seem intent on making every part of this city downright ugly and completely alienating. this is sad sad news for all of us.

Jeremiah Moss said...

thanks thea--if anybody's up there taking pics, please send them in, or add to the vny flickr group, as you document the destruction process.

Anonymous said...

I want to thank you for this article.I have been gone from NY for 28 years and the memories of reading it brought back my life as a little girl and the grand daughter of Viola James and Benjamen James the founder of the La Famille. Thank you for the memories.

Jeremiah Moss said...

to the granddaughter of mr. and mrs. james, thank you for writing in. any time you'd like to share those memories of la famille, please do. i'm sure people would be interested in hearing.

Anonymous said...

THANK YOU FOR THE KIND WORDS I CAME BACK TO NY AND WALKED DOWN 125TH TO SEE THIS AREA COMPLETELY GONE. I NOW WORK IN HARLEM AND CAN RECALL MANY MEMORIES OF LIFE ON THE CORNER OF 125TH AND 5TH AS A YOUNG GIRL WITH MY GRAND FATHER, GRAND MOTHER AND ALSO MY MOM WHO HAD A SHOE STORE ON THE CORNER ALONG WITH THE LA FAMILLE.