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Map of Harlem, NYC

A Mecca for African-American culture and life for more than a century, Harlem started out as Nieuw Haarlem, a prosperous Dutch farming settlement. By the turn of the 20th century, black New Yorkers started moving uptown into Harlem's apartment buildings and town houses. The neighborhood prospered and by the 1920s, Harlem had become the most famous black community in the United States, perhaps in the whole world. The Harlem Renaissance, generally regarded as occuring between 1919 and 1929, was Harlem's golden era, when local writers such as Zora Neale Hurston, W.E.B. DuBois, Langston Hughes, and Ralph Ellison achieved literary recognition. The Depression hit hard here, but happily, today the neighborhood is well on the way to new glory days: Young people and families are moving into the newly restored brownstone and limestone buildings, and the combination of architectural treasures, crackling vitality (even Bill Clinton chose Harlem for his post-presidential office!), great music and culture, and honest-to-goodness, lip-smacking soul food make Harlem a must-see destination. Harlem is safe to explore on your own but there are a number of tour companies that will happily show you around.

Harlem Visitor Information Kiosk
Adam Clayton Powell State Office Building plaza,
163 West 125th Street, just east of Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Boulevard (Seventh Avenue)
Open seven days a week
Hours: Monday-Friday
9am-6pm; Saturday-Sunday 10am-6pm.
Directions by Subway: A, B, C, D or 2,3 to 125th Street

Uptown Culture

Harlem's main thoroughfare is 125th Street. The Apollo Theatre, a concert venue for luminaries as well as a rite of passage for rising musicians, is on 125th Street. Count Basie, Bessie Smith, Nat King Cole, Marvin Gaye, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Aretha Franklin have all played here and past winners of its weekly, wild and crazy amateur night include Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn, and the Jackson Five.

The Studio Museum of Harlem is one of the community's showplaces, housing a large collection of sculpture, paintings, and photographs and specializing in African American artists and artists of African descent. The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture (part of the New York Public Library's Division of Negro History) on Lenox Avenue, is an eye-popping literary treasure trove, comprising more than 5,000,000 books, documents, and photographs recording black history and more than 400 Black newspapers and 1,000 periodicals from around the world. The Harlem Week/Harlem Jazz & Music Festival is an annual summer festival taking place each August, with food tasting, art exhibits, concerts, seminars, music, street entertainment, sporting events, and an auto show. And don't miss the The Greater Harlem Historic Bike Tour in early August. The Urban World Film Festival takes place in August every year.

Things To Do and See
As Langston Hughes put it, "there is so much to see in Harlem," and among other wonderful things to explore here are Hamilton Grange, the country estate of Alexander Hamilton; Riverbank State Park, with its wonderful carousel and a spectacular view of the George Washington Bridge; the beautiful architecture of City College (CUNY); the lovely row houses of Hamilton Heights (often called Sugar Hill) that have been home to Count Basie, Chief Justice Thurgood Marshall, and boxing great Sugar Ray Robinson; and Striver's Row (a reference to the upward mobility of the doctors, lawyers and other middle-class professionals who purchased homes here) on 138th and 139th Streets, an elegant row of early 20th-century town houses designed by famous period architects such as Sanford White.


Any day is a good one to come uptown, but Sundays are, for many, the best time to hear gospel singing at churches like the Gothic-style Abyssinian Baptist (where the charismatic Adam Clayton Powell once preached), Canaan Baptist, Salem United Methodist, and Metropolitan Baptist. Visitors of all races and religions are given a warm welcome (remember to please dress appropriately for church). The New York Gospel Matinee is also a possibility.

Shopping and Dining
Malcolm Shabazz Harlem Market is an open-air market on west 116th Street. Green Flea, a Saturday market on West 135th Street at Lenox Avenue, is open 10am-6pm. Since exploring is often followed by hunger pains, stop for a taste of Southern hospitality and stomach-and-spirit satisfying soul food at a restaurant such as Sylvia's, Amy Ruth's, or Bayou - barbecued ribs, black-eyed peas, and pecan pie, anyone? Hopping nightspots include the Lenox Lounge.

Map David Lindroth Inc., dlindmap@bellatlantic.net
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