Near St. Martin's Episcopal
Church at West 122nd Street, it is remarkable how the uniform design of
the facades still lends a rhythm and scale to the street. The addresses
200 to 218
Malcolm X Boulevard
With mansard roofs, classical architectural
elements and a hint of Dutch design influence, this series of townhouses
by the firm of de Meuron and Smith in 1888 recalls the late 19th-century
residential character of the Boulevard. The interiors of such houses
were usually as grand if not more so than the exteriors, with carved
wood balusters and heavy paneling on the formal floors, well designed
built-in storage on each floor, and gracious gardens at the rear.
These structures amazingly still have their
original stoops, bearing witness to the majesty of the Boulevard at the
turn of the century. The formality of the entrance functions as a strong
design element along a wide street such as this. It also serves as a
means of establishing a hierarchy of private versus public space and
classifying those who enter the home by social level, servants versus
family and friends. The service entrance is located beneath the stair
landing, hence the term "upstairs, downstairs."
These five beautiful Victorian rowhouses are a
perfect example of what a difference careful renovation can make in the
appearance of the street. The building on the corner has been lovingly
restored; the four adjacent buildings going north on Malcolm X Blvd. are
of identical design, but survive in varying degrees of disrepair.
However, they serve as a record of each other's missing elements. For
example, by studying all five, one notices that the front of the
restored corner version is missing an original bay window but has had
the cast iron cresting detail replaced on the roof edge.