T H E B R O W N S T O N E
Welcome to 204 West 123rd Street, Harlem NY.
In the spring of 2015, Jazz month and during my fourth exhibition in the gallery, Mount Morris Park sent Kathleen Hulser, New York Historian, to our home to write a piece about our home for the Mount Morris historic house tour in 2015 themed Old Spaces, New Places......
Sweep through the grand double doors of Loni and Russ Efron’s house and you are immediately plunged in the gracious customs of the 1890s when it was built. No proper Edwardian would rush the ceremonial disrobing in the vestibule. The pier mirror would help women remove the veiling that protected -complexions from undesirable tanning and unhygienic street dust. Hooks welcomed men’s homburgs and the bench served for removing galoshes or shaking off the hems of skirts that collected unsavory street debris. Meanwhile, the children could run their fingers over the carved newel posts and imagine charging up four flights of stairs to the nursery.
When the house was built, George Chittenden Smyth lived there with his wife, his in-laws, four servants and some boarders. They were largely born in Vermont, and George made his living in New York’s cotton trade. But business went badly and the newspapers reported his suicide in 1904. These echoes of the old days are a far cry from the extraordinary music photography that now decorates these walls. Jazz photographers from Art Kane to Harry Benson to Don Hunstein and more have work on view in the gallery that Loni runs as part of her Ilon Art Advisory Company. The imagery is everywhere – be sure to peek in Russ’ office where you will spot some Dylan, Mick Jaggar and Keith Richards. Loni Efron is a photo printer and archivist and has worked with many music industry figures, as well as archiving collections for Annie Leibovitz. She has built on that experience to start her art advising business that now includes the gallery, open on First Thursdays every month as part of Harlem Days and Harlem Nights.
The family has created a flexible space that does life and work with cheerful family living fully integrated. The fireplace in the kitchen shows how people adapt the parlor floor to modern day family living. Space flows from the living space through the middle “dining room” to roomy kitchen with door opening to back garden.
A Japanese rock garden and koi pond occupies prime place in the garden, but if you turn around, you can shoot baskets with Cody, the eleven-year-old. His room occupies a balcony in the parlor which is tucked up like a pirate’s next over the front windows. Everyone gets a special spot: the sub-cellar has an arched brick walled bar for an adult get-away, and a huge Victorian style bird-cage on the back porch houses shelters, the macaw. Gorgeous, casual, family-friendly and tuned into the neighborhoods jazz history, this household shows how Old Places become New Spaces. From the MMPCIA Historical House Tour 2015....by Kathleen Hulser, New York Historian. For more great reads about Harlem visit
MAP OF HARLEM 1885
Detail of Lenox, Adam Clayton Powell and St Nicholas Blvds and from 116-128th Streets.
MAP OF HARLEM 1891
Detail of Lenox, Adam Clayton Powell and St Nicholas Blvds and from 114-125th Streets