In the early 1880s, William Astor built 28, semi-attached row houses on 130th Street between Fifth and Lenox Avenues in Harlem. Each double building shared a turned-wood porch in the Victorian style.
Although the buildings were designated as city landmarks in 1981, by 1990, most of the porches were gone or in serious disrepair. In a tour through Upper Manhattan at that time, Brooke Astor came upon Astor Row and commenced a substantial financial commitment to restore and place the porches. In the next few years, the now-dissolved Vincent Astor Foundation awarded $1.7 million to the Landmarks Conservancy to carry out this endeavor. Currently, all but three of the 28 buildings have been the recipients of new or improved porches.
Importantly, the Astor Row Porch Project stimulated enormous investment in the block. The Conservancy converted two vacant buildings into an eight-unit, limited-equity cooperative. Other vacant buildings were renovated and became habitable. Two City-owned buildings have moved into private hands, and several owners have upgraded their properties. Community preservation at its finest.