"West 138th and 139th Streets, between Seventh and Eighth Avenues are known in Harlem as "Striver's Row" because so many Negroes aspire to live in the attractive, tan-brick houses on these two tree-shaded streets. The residents are mostly of the better-paid, white collar, professional class." -- the WPA Guide to New York City, 1939
These buildings were built in the 1890's by the investor David H. King Jr. He employed three of the best architectural firms in the city to build them, including McKim, Mead and White. Like many of the best buildings in Harlem, they were originally intended for white residents. There weren't enough white renters, though, and many owners rented to African-Americans out of necessity.