The house at 12 West 129th Street, erected when the village of Harlem was undergoing development as a suburban center, stands as a rare survivor of Harlem’s early history, prior to its rapid development as an urban neighborhood. Built for two carpenters, William Paul and Thomas Wilson, and their families, it was a two-and-a-half story frame structure characteristic of suburban architecture. Subsequent changes to the house reflect adaptations by new owners to their needs, as well as changes in the surrounding community.
In 1883, piano merchant John Bolton Simpson, Jr., added the distinctive Moorish-inspired porch, the most significant architectural feature of the house, with its perforated ornamentation created by the use of a scroll saw. In 1896, the house was acquired by an order of Franciscan nuns which was expanding its mission in the greater New York area. In order to accommodate a new use as a convent and children’s home, the building was enlarged to a full three stories. Since that time, the building has continued in institutional ownership.
STATUS Designated Individual Landmark
“I don’t know what the City would be without HDC. [They] testified before LPC time after time and helped us focus on the right issues. We would not be an historic district without HDC! ”
Doreen Gallo: DUMBO Neighborhood Alliance
“Use HDC as a resource because they know what they are doing and can offer advice on how to go about creating a district from every front: architectural, political, LPC, and the media. I had floundered prior to my involvement with this invaluable organization.”
Fern Luskin: Lamartine Place Historic District; Friends of Lamartine Place & Gibbons Underground Railroad Site
“HDC provided guidance and shared information during that process—we knew which Council members were going one way or another and we changed a few minds. I don’t think NoHo would have had as cohesive a district had it not been for HDC’s aid.”
Zella Jones: NoHo Historic District; NoHo East; and NoHo Extension
“I remember Richard saying at a meeting, we have someone here from HDC, Nadezhda Williams, Director of Preservation and Research, to help us. She said to us, ‘You are not the only ones going through this.’ HDC included us in an enormous community”
Erika Petersen: West End Preservation Society