The Harlem African Burial Ground Task Force is a group of concerned citizens who have united to help the Elmendorf Reformed Church to restore and memorialize its historically and culturally significant colonial African burial ground at 1st Avenue, between 126th and 127th Streets in East Harlem, New York City.

BARRACKS & MOVIE STUDIO

1917 to 1924

Landfill - a method of creating more land by depositing refuse and/or soil in the water

MAP KEY

Historical Boundary

of the 

Harlem African Burial Ground

Army Barracks: Hearst's Cosmopolitan Productions

1933 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map (NYPL)

SYNOPSIS

With the onset of World War I and the possibility of Prohibition, the Sulzer family sold the park and casino complex to the City. In 1917 and 1918, the building was converted to a barracks for the newly formed 15th New York National Guard Infantry Regiment, or 369th Regiment, an all black infantry unit with both white and black officers.

 

In 1918, multimillionaire and newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst bought the building, added another floor on top, and converted it to a movie studio, Cosmopolitan Productions. Interior spaces were redesigned as movie sets and more than forty major films, many featuring Hearst's mistress, actress Marion Davies, were made here; these movies represented the best final efforts of the silent film era.

 

The complicated work and daily lives of enlisted soldiers, army officers, movie directors, set designers, actors and actresses all took place in the large, frequently remodeled and increasingly industrial building that was built over the now many times desecrated “Negro burying ground.”

Cosmopolitan Productions movie studio building. c. 1923 (MCNY).

HARLEM TRANSFORMATION: 1820 to 1917

The slider below shows the transformation of Harlem from a rural village in 1820 to a movie production facility in the early 1900s. The block occupied by Hearst's Cosmopolitan Productions movie studio is highlighted in red and is overlaid with the historical footprint of the Harlem African Burial Ground in orange.

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