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This forgotten Uptown apartment house is almost as old as the Dakota.

You’re forgiven if you’ve walked down East 106th Street and missed this seen-better-days former apartment residence on the unlovely corner of Third Avenue.

Stained and grimy, the facade is the color of cardboard with mustard trim. What might have been a grand picture window on Third Avenue has long since been blocked up and is now above the wraparound awning of a Kentucky Fried Chicken.

On the 106th Street side, another entrance is filled in and marred by graffiti. The only remaining door is marked “176” near the building’s red brick, non-adjacent tenement neighbor.

Now imagine how lovely this slender structure must have been when it was finished in 1887, three years after the Dakota on West 72nd Street and in the height of the Gilded Age.

Five stories high, the building features bay windows, Romanesque arches, caryatids, grotesque faces, floral motifs, geometric designs, and one top-floor balcony window framed by columns looking out high above the corner.

All of the design motifs and ornamentation on such a stately building give it some playfulness. (Or turn it into a hot mess, depending on your architectural tastes.) It makes me wonder who built it, who lived there in its glory days, and what else is known about 1922 Third Avenue’s backstory.

The story begins in November 1886. That’s when the Real Estate Record & Guide announced that architect F.A. Minuth, whose work focused mostly on residences and lofts, has completed plans for a “five-story and basement yellow brick and terra cotta with stone trimmings” apartment house and store.

The basement, first floor, and second story “will be reserved for stores and business purposes, the upper part will be arranged for three families on each floor and have private halls and all improvements.” The cost was estimated at $22,000.

The builder was a man named Martin Disken—hence the building’s name carved into the center top, “The Disken.”

An Irish immigrant turned Brooklyn (Rutland Road) resident, Disken is described in his 1924 Brooklyn Eagle obituary as a building contractor. When he filed for bankruptcy in 1899, however, the notice in the New York Times called him a “builder and plasterer” residing on 129th Street “with known liabilities and no assets.”

It’s probably safe to say that by 1899, Disken no long owned his eponymous apartment house. It might also be assumed that by that time, the building’s fortunes were turning.

By the turn of the century, the rapid development of uptown Manhattan was not quite the sure thing real estate investors and speculators thought when they rushed to put up houses on Harlem streets that were open fields just a decade earlier.

Sure enough, a real estate crash in the early 1900s kept middle- and upper-class families away from Harlem’s many new brownstones and apartment residences.

Also preventing The Disken from being the next Dakota or Osborne was the constant rumble of the Third Avenue Elevated. East 106th Street was a crosstown street, so the El stopped outside that second-floor window. Families would not accept that kind of intrusion if they could help it.

The next owner of 1922 Third Avenue, Isaac Fiedenheit, who bought it in 1891 per the New York Herald, likely saw the Disken’s upper class families move to better neighborhoods—as the area transformed into a working class shopping neighborhood on the border of Italian Harlem.

In 1921, Jesse Adler, the owner of a shoe store chain that occupied the ground floor space since 1906 bought the building. The Herald reported that it was now worth $100,000 and “above the ground floor are four lofts.”

How long Adler’s remained opened isn’t clear (photo above is from 1940), but by the 1980s the commercial space was taken over by The Wiz.

Is the Disken an apartment building again? It’s hard to know what’s happening on those upper floors. The facade is dingy and forlorn; the windows free of curtains or other homey touches.

But for a brief time more than a century ago, this unusual building (and its earliest residents) gave the corner a sense of Gilded Age elegance.

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by Anonymousreply 12April 2, 2024 11:34 PM

Although this building is kind of meh, the linked site is a fun read on the development of New York City housing around the turn of the century

by Anonymousreply 1April 2, 2024 10:23 AM

Does it have its own Lauren Bacall?

by Anonymousreply 2April 2, 2024 12:59 PM

^ The Dakota has MEEE!

by Anonymousreply 3April 2, 2024 1:28 PM

You moved, Yoko!

Offsite Link
by Anonymousreply 4April 2, 2024 2:16 PM

I checked the history. The Third Avenue El was built before the building went up, so surely the builder had no grand illusions.

by Anonymousreply 5April 2, 2024 2:17 PM

^ She may have left, but she still owns a slew of units in the Dakota. Sean needs a place to crash now and then

by Anonymousreply 6April 2, 2024 2:43 PM

In the comments, “I think it is not well served by the weak cornice.“


by Anonymousreply 7April 2, 2024 3:02 PM

^ I laughed at that too 😂

by Anonymousreply 8April 2, 2024 3:07 PM

Cornice? When did I eat cornice?

by Anonymousreply 9April 2, 2024 11:18 PM

It has potential…all it needs is a reflective curtain wall.

by Anonymousreply 10April 2, 2024 11:24 PM

I bet a lot more than 3 families per floor live there now

by Anonymousreply 11April 2, 2024 11:26 PM

We’d gladly take a closet.

by Anonymousreply 12April 2, 2024 11:34 PM
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