Harlem Cultural Collaborative & Tourism Council Harlem, el Barrio, Washington Heights-Inwood
Spring Uptown â€“ Take the A Train Travel Guide
Take the A Train Harlem is known around the world for its social history and architecture, music, churches and famous residents from every walk of life: Alexander Hamilton, Harry Houdini, Louis Armstrong, Joe Louis, Duke Ellington, Fiorella La Guardia, Thurgood Marshall and Kareem AbdulJabber to name only a very few. Like Greenwich Village, it’s a neighborhood that has housed artists, thinkers and activists for over a century, although, also like the Village, it was in its early days home to New York High Society. Used for hunting, fishing and farming by the Native American Manhattan Tribe, by the 17th century Harlem was a Dutch military outpost, incorporated as Nieuw Haarlem in 1660. The British took control soon after, anglicizing the name. A hundred years later the territory was again a battleground. On September 16, 1776, the Battle of Harlem Heights (fought in and around what is now 125th St.) brought George Washington's first victory—2000 poorly-equipped Americans against 5000 seasoned British troops. The general’s headquarters during this battle and the site where, in later years, he dined with his Cabinet, was the Morris-Jumel Mansion, Manhattan’s oldest residence and a community museum since 1904. The Morris estate at that time covered more than 130 acres. Today the large, white Palladian house at 65 Jumel Terrace offers guided and selfguided tours of its period rooms (1765-1865) as well as special events including school tours, historical lectures, music, and wine-tasting. www.morrisjumel.org For the next century, Harlem was farmland and country retreats for wealthy New Yorkers, until the soil became depleted and much land was sold off. In the decade after the Civil War, Harlem became an important immigrant destination, home to Italian and Jewish laborers and small tradesmen.
The neighborhood’s fortunes improved by the end of the century to the point that in 1893 Harlem Monthly Magazine wrote, “it is evident to the most superficial observer that the centre of fashion, wealth, culture, and intelligence, must, in the near future, be found in the ancient and honorable village of Harlem."
No Civil War battles were fought in Harlem, but the war has its marker in The General Grant National Memorial—generally referred to as Grant’s Tomb—in Riverside Park overlooking the Hudson. Victorious Union Commander of the Civil War, President from 1869-1877, Ulysses S. Grant and his wife Julia Dent Grant are entombed in the largest mausoleum in North America. Designed by architect John Duncan, the granite and marble structure was completed in 1897. In the 19th century, the Morningside Heights area became home to Columbia University, St Luke’s Hospital and The Cathedral of St John the Divine: trio of majestic institutions caring for mind, body and spirit. Columbia students and scholars are still a vibrant part of the Harlem scene, and St. Luke’s is a leader in community health, with an extensive menu of outreach services. The Cathedral of St. John the Divine is the largest Gothic cathedral in the world, on a nearly-12-acre beautifully landscaped site, hosting over a million visitors a year. Chartered as a “house of worship for all peoples,” the Cathedral from the beginning was dedicated to the American ideals of equality, diversity and tolerance. Many European immigrants who made their home in Harlem worked on the Cathedral and were honored in the seven Chapels of the Tongues, completed in 1918. The Cathedral has a long history of activism in the struggles for peace, civil rights, HIV recognition, marriage equality, food advocacy and climate change. Programs are in place to feed the hungry, provide medical testing
and counsel, as well as workshops for schoolchildren; and preschool, afterschool and summer camp for neighborhood youth. The Cathedral, with its grand spaces, flying buttresses, stained glass windows, wealth of stone carvings, 17th century tapestries, and the American Poets Corner—the only such site honoring American writers in the United States—is an architectural, cultural and spiritual oasis. The Cathedral is open every day of the year, with frequent guided visits, including a vertical tour that takes you up to the very top of the Cathedral and out on the buttresses for stunning views of Morningside Heights. The Cathedral hosts dozens of concerts and other arts events every year. The Saint Francis Day Blessing of the Animals, during which animals large and small, from camels to ducks, walk in procession to the altar after the service and are blessed by the clergy, is a beloved New York event. The Cathedral Biblical Garden offers a quiet place to sit, meditate or watch the peacocks—there are three wandering the grounds—and the vast interior with its 14 themed bays and seven chapels rewards leisurely exploration. www.stjohndivine.org
Harlem is home to many other beautiful and historic churches, including Riverside Church, famed for its social activism. Martin Luther King, Jr., Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela all spoke at Riverside Church as well as at the Cathedral of St John the Divine. Another beautiful church with 19th century roots is Church of the Intercession. A New York City Landmark building, on the National Register of Historic Places, the Church of the Intercession is one the finest examples of the Gothic Revival style. At Christmas, the church’s Clement Clark Moore Candlelight Carol Service attracts many visitors, and its beautiful stained glass windows and stone carvings are an attraction all year. www.riversidechurchny.org. www.intercessionnyc.org. Harlem as we know it today, a major focal point of African-American and Puerto Rican culture, came into being in the early 20th century. Blacks began moving to Harlem in large numbers in 1905, part of the “Great Migration.” The period of the early 1920’s through the mid 1930’s, known as the Harlem
Renaissance, saw an outpouring of poetry, fiction, music, visual arts, theater and social thinking which had profound influences on black and white culture and on the role of race in American identity and history. The poet Langston Hughes, who has a stone in the Poets Corner of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, novelist Zora Neale Hurston, the writer W.E.B. Du Bois, and jazz greats Fats Waller, Duke Ellington and Jelly Roll Morton were all Harlem Renaissance figures. The iconic site of this period is the Apollo Theater, which has been called the most influential single entertainment venue in the world. Ella Fitzgerald won one of the theater’s first “amateur nights” in November 1934; in November,1964, Jimi Hendrix won. The Apollo launched the careers of Billie Holiday, Diana Ross, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Mariah Carey and Michael Jackson, among too many others to list. Now on the National Register of Historic Places, the Apollo still has a full roster of music events, including the famed Amateur Night. www.apollotheater.org. Harlem is also home to a number of world-class museums. The northern end of “Museum Mile” –the section of 5th avenue between 82 St. and 105 St.— contains a fascinating handful of distinct and unusual institutions. The Jewish Museum, 1109 Fifth Avenue, was founded in 1904 with 26 donated objects. Its collections, now housed in the elegant Warburg Mansion, comprise 25,000 items (the largest collection of Jewish art, Judaica and broadcast media outside of Israel), ranging from archaeological artifacts to works by today’s cutting-edge artists. You will find everything from an 18th century Italian marriage contract to work by Marc Chagall, Andy Warhol, Man Ray and Maurice Sendak. The permanent exhibition Culture and Continuity: The Jewish Journey, tells the story of the Jewish people through more than 800 works of art—paintings and sculpture; prints and drawings; installation art; decorative arts; antiquities and media, including a uniquely comprehensive body of radio and television programs related to the Jewish experience. Don’t miss the museum’s stunning collection of Hannukah lamps! The museum offers regular gallery tours and art workshops; live musical, film and theatrical performances. www.thejewishmuseum.org. The Museum of the City of New York, founded in 1923 to present the history of New York City and its people, is—like the city it documents— large, diverse, active, and full of both expected elegance and unexpected discoveries. Across the street from Central Park, the landmark red-brick
building has several floors of exhibits covering nearly every aspect of New York City’s past and present, including an exhibit devoted to New York's history as a major seaport; paintings, photographs and prints of New York scenes; political memorabilia; and recreations of living rooms from the Colonial era onwards. Timescapes: A Multimedia Portrait of New York, tracing the growth of New York City from a settlement of a few hundred Europeans, Africans, and Native Americans to its present status as one of the world’s great cities, runs every half-hour. The museum has created a number of innovative hands-on activities for children and families that change throughout the year. www.mcny.org. El Museo del Barrio, 1230 Fifth Avenue, was founded in 1969 to present and preserve the art and culture of Puerto Ricans and all Latin Americans in the United States. Puerto Ricans began moving to Harlem in the 19th century. Immigration stepped up in 1898, after the Spanish American war, when Puerto Rico became an American possession, although the greatest wave of immigrants arrived in the 1950’s, with the advent of air travel. El Museo’s permanent collection of over 6,500 objects—spanning more than 800 years of Latin American, Caribbean, and Latino art—includes preColumbian Taíno artifacts; traditional art objects, including animal and spirit masks, primarily from Mexico and Guatemala, and objects related to the celebration of Día de los Muertos; and 20th century drawings, paintings, sculptures and installations, prints, photography, documentary films and video. The museum offers guided tours and hands-on workshops, bilingual public programs, festivals and special events. www.elmuseo.org Sometimes referred to as the Main Street of Harlem, 125th St (Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard) has seen a wealth of history, from the fierce fighting of the Battle of Harlem to the glorious music of the Apollo Theater. At the intersection of 125th St. and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard, a statue of Adam Clayton Powell Jr., who represented Harlem in Congress from 1945 to 1970, graces the plaza that fronts the State Office Building that bears his name. Former President Bill Clinton established his foundation’s NYC offices on 125 St. before moving downtown in 2011, and still maintains a small office there. Among the many cultural institutions on 125 Street is The Studio Museum, founded in 1968 to celebrate and support artists of African descent locally, nationally and internationally. Every year, the Museum offers an eleven-month studio residency (free studio space and a stipend) for three local, national, or international emerging black and Hispanic artists working in any media. Artists participate in open studios and public
programs. At the end of the residency, an exhibition of the artists’ work is presented in the Museum’s galleries. Be sure to take a look at Harlem Postcards: Tenth Anniversary Exhibition. For this exhibition, the Museum commissions artists to photograph Harlem and turn their unique depictions of the neighborhood in free, limited-edition postcards. Initiated in 2002, this project was created to provide alternative, multifaceted views of Harlem, and to capture the community in a critical moment of growth and change. The museum is easily identified by the red, green and black flag Untitled (African American Flag) by the artist David Ammons, which hangs over the entrance. www.studiomuseum.org. Another major thoroughfare, 155th St., also has deep historical roots. The last named street on the 1811 grid plan street design for Manhattan, location of the famed Polo Grounds Stadium (original home of the New York Yankees, New York Mets and New York Giants) and of Trinity Cemetery and Mausoleum, where many noted figures, including novelist Ralph Ellison, financier John Jacob Astor, and most recently New York Mayor Ed Koch, are buried. The cemetery has a memorial to ornithologist, naturalist and painter John James Audubon. Audubon Terrace, the block between 155th and 156th Streets west of Broadway, was originally part of Audubon’s farm. Today on Audubon Terrace, a Beaux Arts complex houses The Hispanic Society of America, marked by an equestrian statue of medieval military figure and Spanish national hero El Cid. The landmark building houses an outstanding collection of art objects, including furniture, sculpture, ceramics and textiles and paintings. The museum houses the largest Spanish and Latin American art collection outside of the Iberian peninsula, while the research library contains first editions of the most significant literary art works in the Spanish language as well as manuscripts, rare books, and incunabula. Not to be missed are masterworks by Diego Velazquez, Francisco de Goya and Joaquín Sorolla. Goya’s Duquesa de Alba welcomes visitors into the Main Court. Another highlight is the Vespucci Map at the Reading Room; this map, made by Amerigo Vespucci’s nephew, is considered to be one of the first maps that display the continent of America. www.hispanicsociety.org. Further uptown, in Fort Tryon Park, The Cloisters, a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, boasts a collection comprising approximately three thousand works of art from medieval Europe, dating from about the 9th to the 16th century. It houses masterpieces of medieval art in all media, is
surrounded by beautiful gardens inspired by medieval documents, and offers a popular series of early music concerts. The Unicorn tapestries are a mustsee at the Cloisters, and this year is a special one: Search for the Unicorn: An Exhibition in Honor of The Cloisters' 75th Anniversary, runs from May through August, 2013. http://www.metmuseum.org/visit/visit-the-cloisters Any of these institutions could occupy you for weeks, and wandering around Harlem on your own is a great way to see the neighborhoods, including the many brownstones with plaques noting what historical personages once lived there. But if you want something more structured, the non-profit volunteer community organization Harlem One Stop offers neighborhood guided tours presenting information on leisure events and attractions— historical tours, music, dance, theatre, fairs, festivals, outdoor activities, dining, shopping and more—for the Upper Manhattan area. Harlem One Stop is dedicated to the preservation and appreciation of Harlem's architectural and cultural treasures. The website describes a variety of lively walking tours and has an inclusive array of event listings for Washington Heights, Inwood, and West, Central and East Harlem. http://www.harlemonestop.com. If the thought of so much culture has made you hungry, don’t worry! Harlem has a rich culinary tradition, from the famed Sylvia’s to such newcomers as Red Rooster Harlem, named after a legendary Harlem speakeasy. The more notable establishments—and suggestions for a quick bite—are marked on the map. If you want to explore more deeply, A Taste of Harlem offers Food Tours of Harlem, which allow you to sample the offerings of many restaurants while learning about historic Harlem: architecture, art, ideas and notable people. www.tasteharlem.com. Harlem offers a unique perspective on New York City. Its ups and downs, changing demographics, periods of danger and despair as well as astonishing creativity mirror those of the city as a whole. As the new century gains speed, Harlem is more than keeping up: artists and entrepreneurs, preservationists and visionaries, longtime residents and new are making sure that Harlem remains a vibrant collection of neighborhoods, parks, nightlife, museums, churches and family activities.