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New York, New York

Sylvan Terrace

A discreet little stairway on Amsterdam Avenue leads to a quaint and unexpected cobblestone terrace. 

Now a residential community and popular film set location, this property was originally part of the Morris-Jumel Mansion estate. The property was divided, and the Sylvan Terrace was built in 1882 by James E. Ray. The road between the 20 wooden houses created a private throughway to the mansion.

After World War II, aluminum and asphalt became an exterior home decorating fad, and the vintage façades of the terrace were covered in shiny gray metal. By the 1960’s, the houses were in shambles, the overhangs were removed, the street paved over, and many of the detail-oriented charms of the place were ruined. 

In 1970, the Landmarks Preservation Commission marked the Sylvan Terrace as part of a Historic District, and was renovated by the Federal Community Development fund. Unsatisfied with the work and upkeep, Sylvan Terrace residents took home improvement into their own hands.

The houses are now painted in similar shades of yellow, with green shutters and brown windowsills, to preserve uniformity. The doorways vary in height, giving the terrace a quirky look. Remainders of the aluminum siding can still be seen if you peek into the backyards.