James Baldwin’s New York City Apartment May Get Landmark Status

The city is weighing giving landmark protection to the home of the writer and civil rights activist James Baldwin.

James Baldwin photographed by Carl Van Vechten, September 1955.

The New York Times reports:

“We wanted to explicitly recognize the association with LGBT history,” she said. “In most cases, the designation of the historic districts in which the buildings already exist did not recognize this history.”

Sarah Carroll, the chairwoman of the landmarks commission, said that could be a concern for one of the six buildings, at 137 West 71st Street. It was the New York home of the writer and civil rights activist James Baldwin from the mid-1960s on.

For years Baldwin mainly lived in France and died at his home there in 1987.

But he described himself as a “commuter,” not an expatriate. The landmarks commission noted that he kept an apartment in the 71st Street building “where he worked on plays, screenplays and novels and corresponded with other prominent literary and cultural figures” when he was in New York. His niece Aisha Karefa-Smart wrote in 2013 that the building’s “energy and vitality” surged “to a fever pitch as soon as he hit the door.”

The building was built as one in a line of four rowhouses in 1890 but was altered in 1961. The original facade was stripped off, replaced with light-colored brick. Stairs leading to the parlor-floor entrance were demolished, the front door was moved down to the street level and glass-brick windows were installed next to it.

Baldwin bought it in 1965. His family sold the building in 1994, according to the current owner, Romeo Salta, who said he was “ambivalent” about a landmark designation.

Ms. Carroll and members of the commission’s staff worked with out, City Council speaker, Corey Johnson. According to Carroll, “Mr. Johnson did not suggest specific sites, but he said through a spokesman that the choices ‘will make excellent additions; to the roster of landmarks”

Posted in Tea

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *