Dunbar Apartments - view inside courtyard
|Location||Bounded by 7th and 8th Avenues and West 149th and 150th Streets, New York, NY|
|Architect||Andrew J. Thomas|
|Architectural style||No Style Listed|
|NRHP Reference #||79001601 |
|Added to NRHP||March 29, 1979|
Constructed in 1926, the Dunbar Apartments are a set of buildings in North-Central Harlem in New York City, built by John D. Rockefeller, Jr., to provide housing for African Americans. The apartments were designed by architect Andrew J. Thomas, noted for his designs in the community of Jackson Heights, NY and were named in honor of the famous African American poet Paul Laurence Dunbar. The complex consists of six independent buildings with 511 apartments (as constructed) that occupy an entire city block, between 149th St to the South and 150th St to the North, and between Frederick Douglass Blvd to the West and Adam Clayton Powell, Jr Blvd to the East, with the Northwest corner of the building cut off by Macombs Place. The apartments are a registered landmark, listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The complex's buildings center around an interior garden courtyard, and each building is "U"-shaped so that every apartment receives easy air flow and direct sunlight at some point during the day. The Dunbar is considered the "first large garden-complex in Manhattan."
The buildings were constructed as an experiment in housing reform, and according to the New York City Landmarks Commission, was "the first large cooperative built for "Peoples of African Descent." Rather than being set up as rental apartments, the complex was a housing cooperative. Tenants were required to pay a down payment of $50 per room, and then $14.50 per room per month, much of which went towards a mortgage on the space. In 22 years, if payments were all made on time, the tenant would own the apartment.
The original tenants were by and large middle class, and inexpensive childcare was provided on-site to support working mothers. However, the building opened in 1928, and the Great Depression hit only one year later. The management of the complex was forced to loosen a number of cooperative rules in order to allow people to, for example, take in lodgers. Even so, too many tenants failed to make their payments and the buildings defaulted on their mortgage to Rockefeller. He foreclosed in 1936, and a year later the buildings were converted to rental.
In June of 2013, the Dunbar apartments were sold to the Brooklyn based developer E&M Associates. Plans were set in motion to upgrade the facilities and establish the Dunbar as one of the premier upscale complexes in Upper Manhattan. These plans include renovating the vacant apartments, updating and refurbishing the interior courtyard and garden, and the addition of a variety of amenities including a fitness center, playground, additional security and a doorman. The contract was acquired by Samuel Berry and Andrew Melohn of Douglas Elliman working in conjunction with Fredrik Eklund. 
Famous personalities to live in the Dunbar include leaders of the Civil Rights movement such as W. E. B. Du Bois, Paul Robeson, and Asa Philip Randolph, entertainer Bill "Bojangles" Robinson and the explorer Matthew Henson.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Dunbar Apartments.|
- "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2007-01-23.
- Kaplan, Hayley. "Iconic 536-unit Dunbar Manor gets facelift, new listings". therealdeal.com. Retrieved 10 January 2014.
- "The Growth and Decline of Harlem's Housing", Thorin Tritter, Afro-Americans in New York Life and History, January 31, 1998
- A. Philip Randolph (1889-1979), labor leader, civil rights leader National Park Service - Historic places of the civil rights movement
- Dunbar Apartments, 246 West 150th Street, New York, New York County, NY Historic American Building Survey
- Dunbar Apartments, Matthew Henson Apartment Photographs of apartment interior