The Theo F. Tone Coal Building, 1863, A History After A Tragedy

September 6, 2011

After the dust has settled when a wall crashed on 125th Street and St. Nicholas Avenue, Harlem’s early 1900’s industrial and railroaded has been revealed.As we looked closer and closer at the photos from the catastrophe we saw painted text on the side of the building that fell reads “Theo F. Tone & Company, Coal, Harlem Office, 2311 8th Avenue, Bet 1244th West 125th Sts”.

That for us was enough to go to and search to see if we could find any more information that spoke to the buildings history. After putting the name in the Google search bar we came up with a few hits.

The first was a hit to the Columbia Catalogue of the 1893 Harlem Library link and found an ad for the Theo F. Tone & Company who were “Coal & Wood” dealers that had been in business since 1850. Tone had three locations, this one on 125th Street, one on 133rd Street and 12th Avenue, another on Amsterdam Avenue and 155th Street. What’s amazing is the phone number they had in the ad “No. 199 Harlem,” which we imagine may mean they had the #199 phone in the Harlem.

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In a true Harlem spirit, Mr. Tone was very active in the political sphere of the time. He was pretty edgy, he seems to be “the only speaker” to oppose a new bill by then Mayor Strong who wanted to use $200,000 to create the Riverside Drive Viaduct from 177th Street to 134th Street, and he went to Albany with the Coal Exchange to have his and others phone charges of $249 a year reduced to $100 a year.

After a bit more searching we found an obituary ad for Mr. Theodore F. Tone dated from 1900 at the site Harlem Hybrid, for the retired coal dealer who died at his home in Harlem at 245 West 126th Street.

We were not able to find out where Mr. Tone was born but we do know that he died a Harlemite and was buried at the Our Church of Lady of Lourdes on West 142nd Street on May 4, 1900 and was survived by his wife Catherine A.,.

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