Designated: June 15, 1993
The apartment building at 555 Edgecombe Avenue, built as the Roger Morris Apartments but known simply as “555,” has achieved significance as the home of many of New York’s successful African Americans. Located·on an elevated site immediately south of the eighteenth century house of Roger Morris (known as the Morris-Jumel Mansion), on land that was once part of the Morrises’ Mount Morris Estate, the apartment house at 555 Edgecombe A venue was erected in 1914-16 during a period of major residential development in lower Washington Heights. By the mid-1940s, 555 had become such a well known residence for black New Yorkers that it was considered a part of Sugar Hill, despite the fact that it is north of 155th Street. The building is among the most impressive apartment houses in the neighborhood and is among the few tall residential buildings erected in this section of the city. Designed by Schwartz & Gross, one of the architectural firms most actively involved in the design of apartment houses in New York during the first decades of the twentieth century, the Roger Morris initially housed white tenants of various ethnic backgrounds. By the 1930s the racial character of the neighborhood was changing, and in 1939-40 the tenant population of 555 Edgecombe Avenue shifted exclusively to African-American. Since 555 Edgecombe Avenue is one of the finest buildings in the neighborhood, with sizable apartments and spectacular views, it attracted a number of America’s most famous black citizens including, however briefly, such people as Paul Robeson, Count Basie, Canada Lee, and Kenneth Clark. It also has housed a significant number of white-collar workers and professionals.
STATUS Designated Individual Landmark
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City Lore, Folklorist
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