Clarence True of Harlem, one of the most prolific and competent architects of the time, 1860-1928

Clarence Fagan True, AIA, 1860-1928, was an architect who lived in 217 West 104th Street, in Harlem, New York.

One of the most prolific and skilled architects of the time.

All of this was happening during the last decade of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century.

Early life

Born in 1860, True was the son of an episcopal clergyman from College Point, Queens. The family moved to Harlem, New York, and by 1890 True was working in the same office building as developer Charles G. Judson.


True “worked in the office of Gothic Richard M. Upjohn until he went on his own in 1884 with a few minor commissions, like two in Queens: a Queen Anne cottage in Flushing and a Gothic-style clubhouse. for the Aerial Athletic Association. at Woodside.

Around 1890 Judson hired True, by then a newly established architect. That same year, True planned their first townhouses on New York’s West Side.

In 1891 he designed buildings at 157 and 159 West 88th Street, the low-slope townhouses were each built for US $ 12,000 each.

His development company for his speculative buildings was the Riverside Building Company.

Two richly varied rows of True’s iconic ‘low-stoop’ townhouses, contrasting harmoniously in Italian, French Gothic and Flemish Renaissance taste, remain to remind her presence on the Upper West Side; they are located at 316-26 West 85th Street (1892) and at 103, 104, 105 and 107-109 Riverside Drive with 332 West 83 Street (1898-99).

An additional line remains at 469-77 143rd Street West (1893), which includes four townhouses and a five-story multi-family apartment building with a commercial frontage at 1681-87 Amsterdam Avenue in Hamilton Heights, Harlem.

Several other examples survive in the Sugar Hill neighborhood of Harlem, including 43-57 St. Nicholas Place and 842 and 844 St. Nicholas Avenue.

William Van Alen, architect of the Chrysler Building, trained in his office.


Two astonishing works are presented, 1892: John B. Leech Residence, 520 West End Avenue (1892).

A row of five houses on West 143rd Street, Hamilton Heights, Manhattan.


Died in 1928.

Photo credit: 1) Leech House, 520 West End Avenue (1892). 2) Leech house.

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