A Day in Harlem

As you stand corner of Malcolm X Boulevard and 125th Street, you soak in the atmosphere. This was the exact spot of the famed Harlem Renaissance of the 1920’s. This is where Fats Weller and Duke Ellington first came to fruition. This is the same neighborhood where Langston Hughes inspired a generation. This is where the Civil Rights Movement came to life.

Marcus Garvey Park

The beauty of Marcus Garvey Park is that it centers on a massive and steep outcropping of a schist, making it appear like a massive fort. In the evening, you will have just as much fun in the park as it has a lovely amphitheater that has been host to many jazz and live performance events. A nearby structure, known as the Harlem Fire Watchtower, is the only surviving cast-iron watchtower in New York City. Its cast-iron construction followed the park’s natural elevation, and created a perch to fire monitors in the mid-1800’s (predominantly wooden) New York City.


The National Jazz Museum in Harlem

One of the biggest gifts that Harlem gave to the world – is jazz. The most influential jazz musicians, from Duke Ellington to Louis Armstrong to Charlie Parker to Dizzy Gillespie, played in the jazz clubs around Harlem. Hence, the erection of The National Jazz Museum in Harlem. The museum has become a popular attraction for residents and out-of-towners alike. The most attractive exhibit is from The Savory Collection, featuring more than 1,000 discs of recorded radio broadcasts made by audio engineer William Savory in the 1930’s. The collection also includes rare performances from jazz legends such as Armstrong, Billie Holliday and Benny Goodman. The collection has become so popular among the jazz lovers that the Savory Collection has been made available for purchase on iTunes. If you want to delve deeper into the history of Harlem, pay a visit to Studio Museum Harlem, which preserves the works of African-American artists and the African diaspora of the 19th and 20th centuries.


Dunbar Apartments

In the 1930s, the Dunbar Apartments complex was the centerpiece of housing reform and progression. It was the first large garden complex in Manhattan, and the six landmark buildings are still there and functioning. Today, you will get a chance to walk through and explore the many original archways and crests on the buildings. Dunbar Apartments have been the home of many famed members of the Civil Rights Movement such as W.E.B. Du Bois, Paul Robeson and A. Philip Randolph. This is also where actor and tap dancer Bill “Bojangles” Robinson and poet Countee Cullen once lived. If you are interested in finding more famed spots, stop by the Langston Hughes House, a brownstone not too far away at 20 East 127th Street, home of one of the foremost figures of the Harlem Renaissance, poet and author James Langston Hughes.

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Morningside Coffee & Biscuits

The mornings in Harlem got so much better with the arrival of Morningside Coffee & Biscuits. Besides offering the neighborhood a taste of local coffee, the eatery offers some delectable homemade biscuits. The biscuits are made on premises and can be had with a choice of gravy, jam or butter. Still, the biscuit sandwiches are the way to go here. The standout is The Lenox, made of fried chicken, cheese, bacon, gravy and cartelized onions. If you feel like kicking it up a notch, then the hot fried chicken & cheese provide for one fantastic bite.


Amy Ruth’s

There are many longtime eateries scattered all over Harlem. For starters, head on over to Jimbo’s Hamburger Palace for some old-fashioned burgers. But there’s another longtime resident that still cooks up some great bites: Amy Ruth’s. The restaurant has been providing home style Southern cooking since 1998. The spot has become such a great Soul Food destination that the lines build up early on the weekends. The biggest seller is the chicken and waffles, which was named the second best in the country by the Daily Meal.


St. Nicholas Historic District

The tour of St. Nicholas Historic District won’t take too long but’s essential to understanding the rich tradition of Harlem. The district is only a two-block stretch — West 138th and 139th streets between Fredrick Douglass Boulevard and Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard —that has come to be known as “Striver’s Row.” The architecture is flawless and important to preserving the history of the neighborhood. The strip is a perfect example of 19-century urban design, the fact earning it a historic district national landmark status. Examine the three sets of buildings. The first is red brick and brownstone built in a Georgian Revival style. The second is yellow brick and white limestone with terra cotta trim that was designed in Colonial Revival style. The third is dark brick, brownstone and terra cotta buildings that is built in Italian Renaissance Revival style.

A Night in Harlem


Red Rooster

The amount of homemade food in Harlem is almost overwhelming. There’s Sylvia’s Soul Food that has become a popular dinner choice. But tonight you decide to go new school. The Red Rooster, owned by Food Network chef Marcus Samuelsson, celebrates the history of Harlem, and serves up memorable comfort food. The name itself is a nod to a former Harlem speakeasy that once attracted the likes of Nat King Cole and James Baldwin. But the Red Rooster provides a symbol of progress as Samuelsson aimed to change the culinary landscape of the area. The menu is straightforward soul food such as shrimp and grits, Aunt Maybel’s Dumplings, Crispy Bird Sandwich and crab fritters.


Shrine Bar

The nightlife in Harlem isn’t like it used to be, as compared to its heyday in the 1960s, not by a long shot. But it’s slowly regaining its luster. That’s because of bars like Shrine Bar, which mixes great cocktails, live music and an ode to the past (the signage reads: Black United Fun Plaza). But there’s one other bar that’s begun to gain serious recognition for its international beer selection. The Bier International is Harlem’s first beer garden that houses 18 international drafts with another 20 by the bottle. The beer garden pays tribute to local brews as it carries beers made in the Bronx, Harlem and Brooklyn.

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Apollo Theater

Time to make pilgrimage to the symbol of Harlem, Apollo Theater. The national landmark opened in 1914 and quickly became a musical powerhouse. The theater, built in Neo-Classical design, came to the forefront headlining the big bands of the swing era. Then jazz bands became the big thing at the Apollo, the venue featuring acts such as Dave Brubeck and Buddy Rich. In the 1950’s, when Rock N’ Roll opened eyes the Apollo was right there to exploit the talent, showcasing bands like Buddy Holly. The rise of the Amateur Night, however, made the Apollo a legend. All the big names came through the theater, which keeps much of its original interior. The acts that have made their way through the performance venue include George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic, The Supremes, James Brown, The Jackson 5, Michael Jackson, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder and Prince. Today, the theater welcomes more than 1.3 million visitors each year.


Paris Blues

The late-night bar scene remains strong in Harlem probably because of an impressive list of solid jazz bars. The best of the best is Paris Blues. The live jazz bands play the bar, which keeps much of its original décor. In fact, Paris Blues is very much a dive bar. There’s also Harlem Nights and Bill’s Place that could also perk your love for jazz. Add to this a long list of modern bars that have popped up in the neighborhood in recent years, Mess Hall and Harlem Tavern having become the most popular.

Words by Arte Vincent

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Erik Serras
Erik Serras
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Residential Division
Office: 718.840.2757
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