Things I Love About Harlem, Pt I

I love Harlem and I love living in Harlem. Having lived here for more than ten years, there are quite a few things I love doing. It was a little difficult to limit myself to ten.

  • Studio Museum in Harlem– The premier venue for viewing the works of artists of African descent.
    Morningside Park
    Morningside Park, image from the Internet

    Included in its collection are works by Romare Bearden, Sam Gilliam, Julie Mehretu, Jacob Lawrence, Chris Ofili and Lois Maillou Jones. Studio Museum is open Thursday to Sunday and is located at 144 W 125th Street. My go-to place when I need inspiration.

  • The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture – Named after the distinguished scholar, Arturo Schomburg, whose personal collection was added to the Division of Negro Literature, History and Prints at the 135th Street Branch of the New York Public Library in 1926.  Schomburg was born in Puerto Rico and was curator from 1932-8. The center was renamed in his honor in 1940 and designated a research facility in 1972. Today, the collection contains over 10,000,000 items. The Schomburg Center is located at 515 Malcolm X Blvd at 135th Street. I’ve been to several events at the Schomburg, look forward to many more.
  • Continue reading “Things I Love About Harlem, Pt I”

Historic Harlem – 125th Street

From time to time, I hear Harlemites refer to 125th Street as the “real” midtown. Looking at the map though, it’s 110 Street that is the actual halfway point on the 220-street grid that makes up Manhattan. 125th Street, however, has most of the major highway connections. Traveling east leads to the Harlem River Drive on the East River and going west, there’s access to the Henry Hudson Parkway on the Hudson River.

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Harlem Week 2011, July 31 – August 30

Harlem Week was organized 37 years ago by the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce as Harlem Day, a Harlem Weekone-day celebration of the rich economic, political, artistic and cultural history of the community. It was also intended as an effort to counter some of the negative images of Harlem and lift the spirits of its citizens.

Since then, Harlem Week has evolved into a month of street fairs, musical performances and sporting events. This year, more than 100 activities, including film screenings, restaurant specials, parties and an auto show are planned.

Following are some of the activities taking place at this year’s Harlem Week. Follow this link for a complete list. Continue reading “Harlem Week 2011, July 31 – August 30”

Historic Harlem – The Hotel Theresa

Imagine if you will, how Harlem must have looked in the early 1900s. Except for a few buildings like the Koch & Company store between Sixth and Seventh Avenues (the building still stands), churches and banks, much of 125th Street west of Fifth Avenue was populated by row houses and tenement buildings with stores at street level.

On the southwest corner of 125th Street and Seventh Avenue was the Winthrop Hotel, a six story building that took up Seventh Avenue between 124th and 125th Streets. Beyond that, several large tracks of land lay undeveloped.

The Winthrop was one of a few prominent buildings in Harlem but in 1912, the owner, Gustavus Sidenberg, demolished it and commissioned a new building, the Hotel Theresa, named in honor of his late wife.

Harlem's Hotel Theresa now Theresa Towers
Hotel Theresa now the Theresa Towers, Harlem

Designed by the architectural firm of George & Edward Blum, the Hotel Theresa was Harlem’s ‘first great hotel.’ It stands 13 stories and was the tallest building in Harlem at the time. The Theresa had 300 rooms and was planned as an apartment hotel for long-term guests. Suites had one to three rooms and ensuite baths. One hundred of the rooms were reserved for short-term guests.

The entrance to the hotel, on Seventh Avenue, led to a thirty by thirty-five foot lobby area with a marble staircase leading to the main lobby on the second floor, a waiting room, ladies’ parlor and smoking room. Several stores, including a barbershop, a tailor and a delicatessen occupied the ground floor.

Located on the top floor of the hotel, the dining room offered diners magnificent views of Harlem, the New Jersey Palisades and Long Island Sound. Residents and guests could have their meals delivered to their suites or take them in the dining room, which seated 272.

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Travel Photo Thursday – The Apollo Theatre

The Apollo Theatre
The Apollo Theatre

Listed on the National Registry of Historic Places, the Apollo Theatre is the landmark music hall that introduced performers such as Aretha Franklin, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn, Lauryn Hill, James Brown, Billie Holiday, Marvin Gaye, Luther Vandross and countless others. It’s also been home to Showtime at the Apollo. Amateur Night introduces new musicians to the public.

Apollo Theatre marquee
Apollo Theatre

The Apollo Theatre is located on125th Street between Adam Clayton Powell Jr and Frederick Douglass Boulevards in Harlem.


Historic Harlem – 125th Street & Adam Clayton Powell Jr Blvd

Of all the places I’ve lived, Harlem is the only one that makes me constantly aware of history.

On my block, for example, the famous Great Day in Harlem photo of black and white jazz musicians was shot in 1958. From time to time, as I’ve looked out my window to see various groups recreating that iconic photo.

And sometimes when I walk down 125th Street, I try to imagine what it must have been like in the early 1920s when Jamaican born Pan-Africanist, Marcus Garvey, decked out in his military regalia complete with plumed hat, and members of his Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), the first black nationalist organization, would parade down the streets. Or when in the 1960s Malcolm X would stand on the corner of 7th Avenue and 125th and preach black self-determination. Continue reading “Historic Harlem – 125th Street & Adam Clayton Powell Jr Blvd”

The Studio Museum in Harlem

When I get tired of creating images with words, I look to art or design to rest my eyes, free my brain and inspire me. Most times, the place I head to is The Studio Museum in Harlem, an oasis of calm and culture in the midst of street vendors, clothing stores and shops selling human hair and all kinds of ‘beauty’ supplies.

Since it first opened in 1968 in rented loft space on Fifth Avenue and 125th Street, The Studio Museum has been celebrating the work of artists of African descent. In 1979, it moved to its current location on 125th Street between Lenox (6th Avenue) and Adam Clayton Powell Jr Blvd (7th Avenue). Continue reading “The Studio Museum in Harlem”

Harlem’s Backyard Gems

“Harlem’s Backyard Gems is my entry into TBEX Blog Carnival Contest sponsored by Choice Hotels International Services Corp.

When I decided to move to New York in the late 90s, the only place I wanted to live in was Harlem. I imagined myself in a brownstones like the one of a family friend I visited in the 1970s that became symbolic of this historic neighborhood. With sweeping steps that led to beautifully hand-crafted double doors it seemed to welcome everyone in.

But brownstones are just one of many things Harlem is known for. Formerly a Dutch village, Harlem got its name from the city of Haarlem in the Netherlands. It was also once the second largest Jewish community in the U.S. and home to a large population of Italians.

Continue reading “Harlem’s Backyard Gems”