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Harlem Court House

New York Correction History Society's (NYCHS) Virtual Tour of Harlem Prison at Harlem Court:House.©

Harlem Courthouse

Date Built: 1891-1893
Architect: Thom and Wilson

This building was built between 1891 and 1893, for use by the Municipal and Magistrate's Courts. Its original function as a court ended in 1961 when the Courts reorganized. It was said to be one of the City's earliest County Seats.

This vibrant Romanesque Revival style courthouse has elements of the Victorian Gothic, most notably in its pinnacles, multiple steep gables and polychromy. Romanesque Revival characteristics include the blocky massing, and typical round arched door and window openings. The four-story masonry structure has a granite base with a red brick facade trimmed with bluestone and terra cotta. The five-story corner tower is topped by eight small gables with two clocks below.

The firm of Thom & Wilson designed the courthouse. Arthur M. Thom & James W. Wilson were prolific residential architects, designing row houses on the Upper East Side and the fanciful Moorish style Hampton Apartments on Perry Street in Greenwich Village. In 1894, with John E. Schaarschmidt, they designed the Criminal Courthouse on Centre Street and Franklin, which is no longer standing.

A marble and iron spiral staircase leads from the lobby to the top of the tower and there are marble mosaic floors and oak door and window trim. The double height third floor courtroom has a vaulted ceiling, oak paneling and trim and WPA murals by David Karfunkle.

Today, as the Harlem Justice Center, the building provides a variety of Civil Court functions, hearing Family, Housing and Small Claims matters. The surrounding neighborhood contains a public school, a housing development and an art park and together they form a neighborhood version of a Civic Center.

NYC LandmarkThe Harlem Court House was designated a New York City Landmark on August 2, 1967.

East Harlem (El Barrio) Sites & Attractions Sites & Attractions : Historic Community

Visitor Information

Harlem Court House

The 5th District Prison, 170 East 121st Street at Sylvan Place
between 3rd and Lexington Avenues
New York, NY 10035

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