House of Frela

Join us for an insider’s tour of Casa Frela Gallery at 47 West 119th Street, a Harlem brownstone designed by McKim, Mead and White and built in 1885. The house is in the Mount Morris Park Historic District and was landmarked on November 04, 1971.

For the past 10 years Casa Frela has opened their doors to artists, neighbors and visitors from around the world, offering culturally-rich exhibits and installations. Casa Frela is a gallery that features visual, musical and spoken word artists, serves as a learning center, sponsors a garden (Walter Miller III Memorial Garden, 13 W. 119th Street, is a satellite project of Casa Frela Gallery, granted and supported by GreenThumbNYC), and sponsors an art and architectural walking tour (HAWT™ - Harlem Art Walking Tour).

On April 18th, 1885 James C. Miller, a carpenter and builder from Glen Clove, New Jersey purchased a 20’ x 100 vacant lot from Joseph Thompson for $2,416.67 and built a modest row house designed by McKim, Mead and White. Over the ensuing 129 years, the house has changed ownership several times and hosted hundreds of cultural events, from Mr. Miller’s daughter’s marriage celebrated in 1889 to being featured in Beyonce’s video “ If I were A Boy” in 2008.

For the past 10 years Casa Frela Gallery has not only been a site featured on the OHNY tour but has also been the Information Center and starting point for the Harlem Art Walking Tour (HAWT™).

Throughout the year, Casa Frela Gallery hosts art exhibits, workshops, lectures and performances which inspire, explore and promote history, culture, architecture and the arts.

One of the featured events of the HAWT™ weekend will be “A Token and A Quarter” Lecture: “The Rich History of Your House Comes Alive”, by Casa Frela Gallery’s Director/Curator. Mr. Rodriguez demonstrates how you can delve into the rich history of your home. Attendees will receive a “how to” sheet walking them through the process.

Casa Frela Gallery is closed.

Did you ever wonder about the who, what, when and where of your building? To help you delve into the history of your home and your neighborhood you will need your address, and block and lot numbers.

All the information is either a click away on the internet or a short ride on the subway. Below are some tips to help you get started on your historical research. Try to do you research in the morning. It’s the best time of day to obtain the information that you are looking for!

Start by going to the Department of Records, located at 31 Chambers Street. The clerks will be able to help find your block and lot numbers if you don’t know them. You can print a copy of the photograph from their computer for 50 cents, but the quality may be poor. If so, a high quality print can be order for an extra fee.

Tax records may also provide interesting historical information about your building. They can be found at the NYC Department of Finance Register’s Office, located at 66 John Street on the 13th floor. There you can examine your building’s Real Property Files, dating back to the original owner, and see deeds, indentures, mortgages, and encumbrances up the 1940’s. Copies cost 20 cents.

To find press clippings about your buildings and your neighborhood, go to the NYC Public Library, Mid-Manhattan Branch, located at 455 Fifth Avenue on the 2nd floor. Printing is free.

The Humanities Library of the NYC Public Library, located on 5th Avenue between 40th and 42nd streets is another great resource. There you can fine the copies of the New York City Police Census, the US Census, Tax records, the Phillip’s Elite Book and the NYC address directory. Copies cost 25 cent each.

As you can see, there are plenty of resources at your fingertips available to make the rich history of your house come alive!