Part of Town

Harlem is inclusive of everything between the Hudson and East Rivers, and sprawls north of the Upper East and West Sides, from East 96th or West 110th Street, and reaches to West 155th Street, which is the southern boundary of Upper Manhattan. Furthermore, the ragged southern Harlem boundary embraces three neighborhoods. True, too, for the northern boundary neighborhoods. All of the Uptown neighborhoods, from the southwest to the northeast, are:

  • Morningside Heights—overlooking Harlem Plains—encompasses the southwest quadrant, from Cathedral Parkway (West 110th) to 124th Street, spreading west from Amsterdam Avenue to the Hudson River.
  • South Harlem—called the Magic Triangle—stretches from Central Park North (West 110th) to West 124th Street, between Morningside Drive and Madison Avenues.
  • East Harlem—known as El Barrio—comprises East 96th to 143rd Streets, encompassing Fifth Avenue to the East River, which takes in the plaza ingresses and egresses for the Robert F. Kennedy (originally, the Triborough) Bridge.
  • Central Harlem—one-time Harlem Village— between Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard (West 125th) and West 155th Streets, as well as Fifth Avenue to the Hudson River.
  • Hamilton Heights—surrounding the City College of the City University of New York campus—extends from West 141st to 147th Street, between Edgecombe and Amsterdam Avenues.
  • Sugar Hill—a Hamilton Heights section (nowadays)—covering West 149th to 155th Street, and incorporates Amsterdam to Edgecombe Avenue.
  • And Audubon Park—the historic northwestern Harlem limit and Upper Manhattan’s southernmost sector—straddles West 155th Street, spanning Amsterdam Avenue to the Hudson River.

For Time Immemorial

Before 1609, along the Hudson River and above West 98th to the East 111th to 133rd Street salt marshes, were the semi-nomadic Lenape’s Muscoota. These flatlands were harvested for their natural seasonal bounty and the surrounding fields for cultivated vegetables, as well as being hunted for game and trapped for freshwater fish. At the riverfront was a trading post, and throughout the Harlem Plains were various clans’ camps. Furthermore, the Native people’s important westerly trails evolved into Bloomingdale and Kingsbridge Roads, and, in the east, the Boston Post Road to Harlem Bridge. In the Harlem River, surrounding Hell Gate, at East 118th to 132nd Streets

were abundant oyster beds. (1612)

Notwithstanding the British Argall claim of 1613, Holland granted control of its New Netherland territories, where boundaries were vaguely (and never accurately) defined, to the recently formed West India Company. To put it lightly, the exact interpretation of the 1619 Minuet agreement differed between the correspondents, and significantly regarding Muscoota. Without a written document there was an unsteady truce—at best. Nevertheless, the West India Company continuously exploited the colony, especially the settling of the bountiful Harlem Plain. For 50 years, the governing British ignored the Uptown (Dutch) homesteaders concerns. Finally, the colonial governor settled the disputed lands surrounding Harlem Common, Village, and Plains. In due time, this included Manhattan’s northern tip, to the Dutch, Spuyten, and to the Wiechquaesgeck tribe, this was Shorakapok, a place between the ridges. It had an important strategic feature—the shoreline hill fortress Nipinichsen. Additionally, the northernmost region had ceremonial purposes and hunting ground status, evidenced by numerous, once habituated hillside caves. (As well, Spuyten Duyvil, often translated as, “despite the devil,” accurately depicted a vicious current. The popular usage was a play on words, penned by Washington Irving, who pegged ostensibly a peninsula, attached to the mainland, and likened it as an island forevermore.) As much as the southwest quarter, Morningside Heights, sitting on a bluff above Harlem, has a proximity to the Upper West Side—with an affinity to its intellectual and religious tenor—explains why the enclave is identified in Chapter Seven as well. Uptown has a connectivity, as a shared past with its northern neighborhood Upper Manhattan. See the commentaries on this affinity, starting on page 198, and augmented, of course, as the Landowner’s Digest last entry, so look to page 216.

Though repugnant in every way, Irving caught the West Indies Company’s Manna-hata ”Colonial Manifest,” and in turn applying these pillars did increase the colony timber and fur output, as well as the wheat and tobacco productivity—all for shipment to Holland. According to Washington

Irving’spseudo-history, A History of New York, by Diedrich Knickerbocker, Irving condensed as spoof (though surprisingly, an accurate account in this regard!) of Dutch official policy toward Native people,


…as the original inhabitants of America, they did not know European procedure to improve ground;

Therefore they did not use the talents that Providence had bestowed upon them;

Therefore they had proved careless stewards;

Therefore they had no right to the soil;

Therefore there was Biblical authority for their extermination.”

Though never as diabolical as the Spanish conquistadors, according to Prescott, nevertheless, likewise the misunderstandings between Native people and Dutch colonists began at the get-go—with the Canarsie tribe’s “sale” (or “lease” or whichever in between) of their traditional fishing rights, exclusively at the island’s south tip. To one party, agreement covered Kapsee, their diminutive seasonal village. This was limited to the Werpoes, where the rocky, three-toed-sloth-shaped promontories were divided by a creek (underneath present-day Broad Street), which ran southeast to the harbor. Property transactions conducted without a signed written document to go by

(in this case, only a notification letter {in Dutch, by M. Minuet}, of the “purchase”), left harmony to a short-lived affair. In addition to trade disagreements and minor skirmishes—without a single rat on the island prior to arriving onboard the European’s cargo ships—disease quickly ravished the few nearby tribal seasonal fishing villages. The differences went unresolved. A short-lived “honeymoon” in the Downtown West “tobacco” fields, went awry, and the initial settlers scampered behind the stockade, Wall Street. Anyway, without a full understanding by both parties regarding the Lower Manhattan settlement boundaries, settling the island’s northern portion’s ownership proved to be another matter entirely—to be precise, 100 years. The full-scale hostility backdrop unfolded, like this: Surrounding the riverbank trading post between West 126th and 129th Streets—the Dutch New Haerlem, Anglicized to Harlem Village, currently Manhattanville—was established by Peter Stuyvesant in 1658, as a Commons. Prior, only one 1637 pioneering family settled in Harlem; Hendrick, Isaac and Rachel de Forest, were French-Dutch Protestants. Two years later, a second migrant group settled the near northeast (presently Central Harlem), and they included Jochem Pietersen Kuyter, a sea captain, Dr. Johannes de la Montagne, and Jonas Bronck. In 1640, the northwest Native people’s flatland was granted to Jochem Pietersen, from Schleswig-Holstein, Germany. His 400-acre farm ended at Harlem Heights (West 133rd Street)—which were then called Pietersen’s Hills—now St. Nicholas Park.

Mr. and Mrs. Pietersen were killed during the ongoing skirmishes between settlers and Wappinger confederacy warriors, which culminated in the 1655 Peach Tree War, a very bloody episode. Subsequently, there was a 55-year standoff with little village growth, but not one new settlement. The British, it seems, chose to leave the matter as is until 1715. At that time, the villagers and homesteaders were taxed to settle the Confederacy’s claim. With the truce, all the Native Delaware-speaking Nation’s villages on Manhattan, including their seasonal camps and trading posts, vanished.


Before the established peace, Captain Johannes Benson established a homestead on the mammoth, southeast Harlem Plain. He laid claim to due east of West 129th Street (nearby Mount Morris Park); as well as, beyond the village southern bluff (now Morningside Heights); plus, the Benson’s far easterly portion was along the Harlem River, extending through Haerlem Marsh, which encompassed East 96th to 111th Streets, then along the East River; and the Benson spread, continued south as far as Konaande Kongh, the Lenape hilltop village (now, Carnegie Hill). One-hundred-Fifty-Five years later, the sixth-generation Benson’s sold a 450-acre mosaic of rocky fields and goat pastures, craggy protrusions as well as swamps, by means of standard city building lots. Even more central southern acreage was negotiated with the city council and state legislature, and the total was subsumed into Central Park. (War of Independence and Federal era) Harlem Village and Plains were strategically important, alternatively, the adversaries headquartered in Roger Morris’ 1765 mansion, (now the MorrisJumel Mansion), which dominated the northeast bluffs. Overlooking Harlem

Village, in the Federal era, Alexander Hamilton built his estate main house, Grange, on West 141st Street (since moved), which had comprised the western 32-acres of Pinehurst, the (elder and then junior) Samuel Bradhurst estate. The entire Uptown population, in 1820, was barely 400 strong, predominately working on the rural manors, for the most part, owned by wealthy Dutch Quaker patroons and merchants. With not one loyalist confiscation among them, Harlem remained as was, rural estates, and the status quo continued until the late 1840s, as the Commissioners’ Plan of 1811 arrived.

Before thoroughly detailing how the Uptown neighborhoods evolved, let’s survey the grid’s physical results. A quintessential example of ultimate effect, to the (very far) east, was the stony, old Storm family farm, encompassing East 107th to 120th Streets. It began at the Eastern Post Road, (now, approximating Third Avenue) to Boston, and the roadbed moved continuously farther east and parallel to the Harlem Bridge Road. The property was subdivided in 1755. Jacobus Roosevelt, a third-generation dynastic scion, purchased the farm as a country estate, encompassing East 111th to 115th Streets, with a leg on each side of First Avenue. In 1840, William Backhouse Astor Sr., John Jacob Astor’s second son, bought that gentleman’s farm from James Roosevelt (for the bargain price of…$25,000). Twenty-three years passed, the neighboring landholdings had been auctioned off as lots according to grid plan. Forty-three years later, what had been the Roosevelt-owned land was slum. And then after 63 years, the same expanse would be one vast, lowincome-housing project abutting another, and so forth.

Lay of the Land

Why would the rigorously adhered to grid design suddenly be abandoned? Why not before West 108th Street? What differed when extending the “grid” design north to West 155th Street? How should the Eighth to Tenth Avenue (Frederick Douglas Boulevard to Amsterdam Avenue) bluffs be breached?

In all fairness—

  • Firstly, the commissioners according to their own manifesto did not consider that “a single house would be built [that far north] for centuries.” In fact, they almost ignored an essential north-northwest existing roadway link.
  • Secondly, the natural terrain dictates that an extended interrelationship exists between the series of open plazas created by the double-wide (and tree-lined) cross streets and St. Nicholas Avenue. For instance, West 110th, 116th, and 125th Streets, with the further widened north-to-south avenues. Especially, as each north-to-south avenue terminates at the Harlem River.
  • Thirdly, and last but undeniably, the Eighth to Tenth Avenue stretch is quite singular, even within the hilly Manhattan. Topographically speaking, city engineers could not economically grade these solid schist bands of cliffs—not with such sheer drops.

Therefore, a one-solution-fits-all approach was devised, eventually: The natural irregularities would be noncontiguous ribbon parks; everything nearby was put to the grid. The subsequent public outdoor space highlights derived, from south to north, are as follows:

Southerly Parks and Drives

Morningside Park, spanning Cathedral Parkway to West 123rd Street, designed by renowned Central and Riverside Park collaborators, Olmstead and Vaux. After a lengthy delay, it was completed in 1885, with tree-lined, bordering Morningside Avenue and Drive.

  • At West 111th to 122nd Streets, Morningside Drive meanders northwest where it fishhooks due west, ending shortly at Amsterdam Avenue.  At West 113th Street, Manhattan Avenue (the mid-Eighth-to-NinthAvenue block north of West 100th Street), forms a diminutive triangle, Lafayette Square, whereas
  • Morningside Avenue, moving north-northwest, hugs its namesake park’s eastern edge, while Manhattan Avenue continues due north.
  • At West 125th Street, St. Nicholas Avenue, forged from the colonial Harlem Lane (now, wending its way through Harlem Common to be the Kingsbridge Road above West 147th Street), was at first threatened, but employed to excellent purpose as a diagonal thoroughfare leading throughout Harlem to Central Park.

(Of particular note is Washington Apartments, at West 122nd Street and Seventh Avenue, Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard. This apartment house is strikingly similar to the remaining 1880s multiple-family dwellings, in particular, the Windermere, on West 57th Street at Ninth Avenue.

Additionally, it was built on a like scale of the demolished Stuyvesant Flats— at 142 East 18th Street, off Union Square—the city’s first apartment house, designed by Richard Morris Hunt and completed in the early 1870s.)

Central Parks and Drives

St. Nicholas Park, spanning West 128th to 141st Streets was formerly Croton Aqueduct system (an 1890 gatehouse still stands near to Convent Avenue).

The site was acquired in 1895; the park began in 1906 and was expanded prior to opening in 1909. Since 1910, City College University of New York campus occupies the bluff’s west, off St. Nicholas Terrace from West 131st and 141st Streets (with subway tunnel burrowing schist for its façade).

  • West 152nd Street, east of Amsterdam Avenue.
  • At West 137th Street, St. Nicholas becomes Edgecombe Avenue (combe, as in crest, to a Saxon, anyway) which continues, north-by-northwest, to cross West 155th Street.
  • At West 142nd Street, off Edgecombe Avenue, Bradhurst Avenue veers north-northeast, and half-a-mile roadway terminates at West 155th Street. Worth note is the 1888 Victorian single-family row of houses, at the Edgecombe and Bradhurst Avenue axis.

Additionally, two short avenues run north and south, and two others move northwest to southeast, from south to north, they are:

  • Hamilton Place, on the diagonal between West 136th to 142nd Streets, links Hamilton Heights and Manhattanville, spanning Amsterdam to Broadway. This wide exclusively residential boulevard, with broad plazas at both ends, is lined with low-rise apartment houses, row houses smatterings, and an array of flats buildings, including the Leonora, Noralea, and Talladega, on West 140th Street, and the Hamilton Court at West 144th Street.
  • Hamilton Terrace, between West 141st to 144th Streets, at Convent Avenue, is a harmonious and subdued row-house enclave, which dead ends with a quite exuberate, yet well-in-hand, corner home, completed in 1898.

Northerly Parks and Drives

Jackie Robinson Park is encased West 145th Street to 155th Streets, rising dramatically above its east and west borders—Bradhurst and Edgecombe Avenues. As Colonial Park, from 1894 to 1900, the parkland reopened with a playground in 1911. In 1936, the parkland was extensively expanded as a sports center, which includes the city’s largest outdoor swimming pool. After a further mid-1970s renovation, the park was renamed in 1978. This Eighth to Tenth Avenue ribbon is quite singular, within a special Manhattan portion. Columbus Avenue, as noted, does not cross Cathedral Parkway, however, at West 149th Street, as Manhattan Avenue, it merges into St. Nicholas Avenue, and then shoots north-northwest to cross Amsterdam (Tenth) Avenue one mile north. Furthermore, a diminutive St. Nicholas Place Historic District

Extension continues due north but, then, terminates shortly to be a Harlem River Drive access. The accesses create two easterly short streets, deemed to be “Places,” and they are:

  • Malcombs Place, West 150th Street and the Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard terminus, at Harlem River, between West 151st and 153rd

Streets, runs southwest to Frederick Douglas Boulevard. Here, Harlem River Houses, a sprawling complex of lavish plantings comprises fourstory, red-brick, walkup wings, is masterfully sited to create a series of wide courts and ample open spaces.

  • St. Nicholas Place, at West 149th to 154th Street, and between St. Nicholas to Edgecombe Avenue, is included in the Sugar Hill Historic District Northeast Extension. It runs along Convent Avenue, which consists of 15-row houses and flats buildings, built between 1885 and 1909.

And finally, in the south central sector, is a fourth upgradable breadth, Marcus Garvey Memorial Park, a common really, which arises between West 120th to 124th Streets, at Fifth Avenue. This is an isolated protrusion, far too pronounced to have leveled. Alongside the dramatic schist outcropping, is an amphitheater, playground, and sports facility. Atop, the landmark fire station, a community warning tower bell, is notable and deserves special consideration as well. The park-side avenue, Mount Morris Park West, is a plethora of 125-year-old town houses. The three quite remarkable adjacent side-streets—each with rows and rows of landmark designated row houses— are treasures, too.

Sixteen Broad Avenues and Six Easterly Bridges

Nowhere in Manhattan is the relative connection between regular right-angle cross streets juxtaposed to wider avenues more pronounced than Uptown. City engineers were resolving the underlying rugged terrain demands, with ribbon parks. The commissioners had been distracted by the six miles of hurdles between. Plus, during the 60 years since the 1807-11 grid design deliberations, an awareness of open spaces evolved: their need, importance, as well as the benefit a planted common brings to the neighborhood. Overhead mass transit, moreover, rapidly leapfrogged the mass migration of established citizens and immigrants northward.

Additionally, a vital distinctiveness begins above 125th Street, as the island narrows northwesterly along the Harlem River. The geographic feature has an interrelationship with the movement of goods by freight to mainland markets. These factors created eastern Uptown grid design adaptions. Therefore, one easternmost avenue after another terminates, either in a planted plaza or as a Harlem River bridge egress or ingress, and the east-towest order, is:

  • First Avenue, at East 125th Street, leads to the RFK (Triborough) Bridge;
  • Second and Third Avenues, at East 128th Street, leads to the Willis Avenue Bridge;
  • Park Avenue, ends at East 132nd Street;
  • Lexington Avenue, at East 131th Street, leads to the Third Avenue Bridge;
  • Madison Avenue, at East 138th Street, leads to the Madison Avenue Bridge
  • Fifth Avenue, ends at East 143rd Street,
  • Sixth Avenue, Malcomb X Boulevard, at 145th Street, leads to the 145th Street Bridge;
  • Seventh Avenue, Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard, at West 155th Street, leads to the Macombs Dam Bridge;
  • Eighth Avenue (as Central Park West) becomes Frederick Douglass

Boulevard, which ends on West 157th Street;

  • Ninth (Columbus) Avenue terminates at Central Park North, West 110th Street, and thereafter Columbus Avenue splits as Manhattan and Morningside Avenues.

Three avenues do run continuously throughout Harlem and from east to west, they are: 1) Amsterdam Avenue, 2) Broadway, and 3) Riverside Drive (Claremont, too, for eleven blocks, in Morningside Heights only). The numerous important cross streets, from south to north, are:

  • East 96th and 103rd Streets, which run from the East River to Fifth Avenue;
  • East 110th Street becomes Central Park North, and then continues through Morningside Heights (to Riverside Drive) as Cathedral Parkway;  East and then West 116th run continuously to Frederick Douglass Boulevard, ending at Morningside Park, and then picking up again (after the Columbia-Barnard campus), at Broadway to Riverside Drive;
  • East and West 125th Street, Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, veers northwest at Morningside Avenue, and then ends at the Hudson River;
  • West 135th Street, interrupted by St. Nicholas Park, and then re-emerges at Amsterdam
  • Avenue, and continues to Riverside Drive;
  • West 145th Street crosses each Uptown avenue;
  • West 155th Street, likewise, runs from Harlem River Drive to Riverside Drive.

St. Nicholas Avenue’s Path

The commissioners’ initial decision to obliterate the crucial Kingsbridge Road was overruled. Instead, it became what was essentially the Kingsbridge Road path. Additionally, the historic Harlem Lane link, running between 109th to 123rd Streets, survived. Moreover, once Central Park’s extension was complete to West 110th Street, its northern-most portion (above West 105th Street, in particular), was purposefully designed to accommodate the topography, with extensive hills, thick woodlands, and sporadic meadows. Starting at Sixth Avenue, Malcomb X Boulevard, and Central Park North, St. Nicholas Avenue, begins its north-northwest diagonal track. Not only does the broad thoroughfare highlight that natural parkland, it brushes by the ribbon parks too, which accents their rugged terrain. Throughout Harlem, the roadway runs between—but not always parallel to—Ninth and Tenth Avenues. Furthermore, like Broadway below West 72nd Street, St. Nicholas Avenue’s path creates three-roadway intersections as generous plazas, which are:

  • At Seventh Avenue, Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard, and West 116th Street, the intersection forms a grand square, graced with monumental turn-of-the-century, apartment houses, designed as a notable duo: Graham Court, commissioned by William Waldorf Astor, and designed by Clinton & Russell, and El Nido Apartments, designed by Neville & Bagge.
  • At Eighth Avenue, Frederick Douglass Boulevard, and West 121st Street a smaller square is created.
  • At Manhattan Avenue and West 124th Street, a traffic hub, once crossing Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, at West 126th Street the path continues due north, running alongside St. Nicholas Park, to West 141st Street.

By shadowing St. Nicholas Park at West 128th Street, the roadway veers slightly northwest. (From West 136th Street, Edgecombe Avenue starts to the north.) At West 141st Street, St. Nicholas Avenue jags westerly to West 149th Street, where St. Nicholas Place continues due north for five streets. From that juncture, St. Nicholas Avenue’s trajectory is then decidedly northnorthwest until crossing West 155th Street into Upper Manhattan.

Urban Development

West Harlem, anchored by Manhattanville, was Manhattan’s second substantial community. It remained prosperous by dint of the Hudson River dock activity. Likewise, in 1704, an overland Bloomingdale Road trade route, most aptly put, a cartway serving as the primary north-to-south thoroughfare, ran through the village. It, too, brought commerce. The revolutionary steamboat technological changed New York Harbor’s shipping patterns. So much so that 20 years prior to Harlem’s 1873 incorporation into New York City, west Harlem was mired in a fearsome economic decline. Crosstown, simultaneously, as a result of the Hudson River Railroad opening, the population exploded suddenly in the 1850s. That growth had redoubled by 1880, with the Third and Second Avenue “El” completion. The growth continued through to the 1904 IRT subway system’s arrival. East Harlem’s transformation, from an exurb to a neighborhood within

Manhattan, seemed set in cement. (1905-39) Although initially the southern uptown portion developed rapidly—for example, better than 100 luxury apartment houses were built quickly along the broad, tree-lined avenues (of which many are still standing). However, with mass transit in place and large factories providing work opportunities in place, the African-American community, (concentrated primarily in Hell’s Kitchen), began moving to Harlem. Additionally, the first immigration wave to by-pass the Lower East Side for Harlem set the scene. A nascent uppermiddle-class neighborhood’s character changed drastically: the well-heeled swells fled south onto the flourishing, nearby Upper West Side avenues. Instantaneously, Morningside Park housing construction ceased. The luxurious (with up-to-the-minute conveniences), multiple-family dwellings went unattended. Rapidly, Harlem Plains became countless slum blocks. One decade later, the completed process left South, Central, West and East Harlem as decaying flats buildings, tenement apartment houses, and converted row house. The housing was haphazardly crammed with working-class poor— Puerto Ricans as early as 1915—the Irish and Italian communities isolated themselves to the east, as did an immigrant wave of Eastern European Jewry.

Shortly, the Jewish community was gone; they migrated to Upper Manhattan or along the Grand Concourse, in the Bronx. (1940-60s) To alleviate East Harlem’s still growing, impoverished population living in untenable housing conditions, the condemned swaths were replaced by (bland, often ill-conceived) mega-scale, city-sponsored, urban-renewal, lowincome-housing apartment projects. Everywhere (well, almost!) between Madison and First Avenues, from East 93rd Street, at Hells Gate, including the entire Harlem River inlet, and north to West 155th Street, was similar and continuous and hulking, red-brick apartment dwellings. The communities’ individuality was gone; in fact, the sole remaining enclave is Pleasant Avenue. This working-class tenement apartment and row house enclave, extending east of Second Avenue, between East 114th and 120th Streets, was spared by Robert Moses when power-brokering the Triborough Bridge traffic flow. This one isolated avenue, though, is surrounded by housing projects, an underutilized, landfill wasteland, and the FDR (Franklin Delano Roosevelt) Drive following the East River as it becomes the Harlem River Drive. A relief, as a series of playing fields, between East 128th and 128th Streets, is Harlem River Park. The few credible, city-sponsored housing complexes, those sited within a park-like setting, from south to north, are:

  • Drew Hamilton Houses, West 141st to 143rd Streets, spreading between Adam Clayton Powell Jr. and Frederick Douglass Boulevards;
  • Riverbend Houses, East 138th to 142th Streets, occupying Fifth Avenues’ terminus, at the East River;
  • Paul Lawrence Dunbar Houses, West 149th to 150th Streets, spreading between Adam Clayton Powell Jr. and Frederick Douglass Boulevards;
  • Harlem River Houses, West 151st to 154th Streets, is on Adam Clayton Powell Jr.
  • Boulevard’s terminus, at the Harlem River.

Harlem’s Historic Districts

Of course, throughout Manhattan, wherever even a minor diversion from the grid design, the irregularity becomes something special. Uptown is no exception. Therefore, it is not a surprise that historic districts are nearby Harlem’s meandering avenues or spontaneous parks or serendipitous street and avenue interruptions. To take in the sheer variety of the dwellings often requires a stroll along adjacent side-street blocks, for example, with architecturally significant row houses. For extensive details on these landmarks you might like to refer online to, Afterword—Moving Forward which, specifically, as Walking a Search, begins on page 168. Here, now, is a brief outline of each district, starting in the south central portion, they are:

  • Mount Morris Historic District lies between West 119th and 124th Streets, from Madison Avenue west to Sixth Avenue, Malcomb X Boulevard. This northeast Magical Triangle portion boosts surprises, such as grand town houses, rows of high-stoop single-family homes, and once-luxurious, flats buildings, especially across from Marcus Garvey Memorial Park. The areas nearby include two rows of houses, running along West 121st and 122nd Streets, on Sixth Avenue’s west side, and several isolated row houses in the Fifth-to-Madison-Avenue blocks, stretching to West 129th Street.

Still in the central portion, on the Harlem Plains, and at St. Nicholas Park’s eastern base, is a very special string of individual single-family homes, built to be a harmonious whole. The official name is St. Nicholas Historic District.

  • King Model Houses, aka Striver’s Row, comprises the two contiguous block fronts of West 138th and 139th Streets, between Fredrick Douglass to Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard, as well as their adjoining rear gardens.

Atop the northern St. Nicholas Park plateau, is:

  • Hamilton Heights Historic District (irregularly) spans West 140th to

145th Streets, comprising Amsterdam and Convent Avenues, Hamilton

Terrace, and the 141st Street northwest corner of St. Nicholas and Edgecombe Avenue. Each avenue and side-street hold a wealth of singlefamily town houses.

Alongside Jackie Robinson Park, is:

  • Sugar Hill and extensions (once considered Harlem’s premier neighborhood), as a patchwork, run from West 145th to 154th Streets, comprising the avenues east of Amsterdam, inclusive of Convent to St. Nicholas Avenues, and St. Nicholas Place to Edgecombe Avenue. An additional residential street, the St. Nicholas Place Extension, abuts the larger historic district.

The final historic district is not a residential enclave; however, several nearby residential streets are noteworthy. Audubon Terrace is nestled on Harlem’s edge, in the unique northwest quarter. From West 153rd to 155th Streets, spanning Amsterdam Avenue to Broadway and to Riverside Drive is entirely green space. Sitting on a hillside and appearing very rural in a very urban setting, Trinity Church Cemetery and Mausoleum was established in 1842. The terrain here is exceptional, too, because the rise of Washington Heights begins, though gradually. The setting also includes a portion of Riverside Park’s tiered lawns, groves, and esplanades, as the Hudson River Greenway.

Audubon Terrace, in the West 155th-to-156th-Street mid-block, faces east to Broadway. Though small by any standard, the district is comprised of four institutional and society-oriented buildings in a limestone-front Beaux-Arts grouping, set in two rows. A museum and church share the brick-paved court as well. The adjoining Audubon Park neighborhood crosses the Harlem boundary, and runs a few streets south of the cemetery as well as to its north; say, West 150th-to-160th Street. The area contains numerous 1915-25 flats buildings and apartment houses designed by the era’s eminent architects and developers. They line up side by side along Riverside Drive and Broadway to Amsterdam Avenue. More residential details are covered in the next part of town, Upper Manhattan, coming up in two pages.

Restoring the Glamour

Finally, after languishing endlessly and nearing last millennium’s ended, the long-anticipated Harlem revival began within the south-central corridor. There was no one place where it started. Though gradually at first, from Central Park North, and moving north as well as west, stretching to West

116th Street and encasing Fredrick Douglass Boulevard to Fifth Avenue, changed. The revision appeared on the avenues and cross streets, inclusive of Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard too.

The first joint community redevelopment effort focused on a rare speculative row of houses, on West 130th Street, in the Fifth-to-Sixth-Avenue block, which had been purchased by John Jacob Astor—in 1844, for $10,000. The row was commissioned by William Backhouse Astor Jr., dubbed Astor Row, was designed and built by an esteemed developer, Charles Buek. The grouping was completed between 1880 and 1883, as semi-attached, setback with front yards, leading to wooden porches. However, the Astor heirs, Mary, James, and Sarah, sold their portion in 1911. Subsequently, the entirety was resold; and shortly after, it was foreclosed upon. In 1990, the row houses were beyond mere disrepair; they were in complete shambles. Their saviors, city preservation and Harlem development groups, banks, foundations, and entertainers, all rallied round Astor Row. It was saved from demolition. Moreover, the row reemerged with restored porches, updated mechanics, and new roofs.

Mentioned previously, on page 189, the second restoration project was undertaken for St. Nicholas Historic District. The King Model Houses, or Striver’s Row, sit along West 138th and 139th Streets, occupying the entire Frederick Douglass to Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard strip. Designed and executed in 1891, as high-end, Renaissance Revival town houses (anchored with avenue flats buildings), were executed by no less than Manhattan’s finest 1890s architectural firms—including McKim, Mead, and White, in conjunction with James Lord Brown, Bruce Price, and Clarence S. Luce. Although each town house is designated as a city landmark, before 1940, most were cut-up as single-room units, left totally neglected. These homes were so extraordinary, even before Harlem’s revival took off, their painstaking restoration began—one by one, undertaken by younger, better-heeled professionals.

Addressing Neighborhood Accessibility

Mass transportation innovations transformed Uptown, more so than any other part of town. And the West Side subway system works well, they are quick and convenient. The express subway commute can be caught from many nearby stations, so it is important to calculate which of the five lines suit the destination best. Correlating a neighborhood with the right subway line is simple, and the choices, from west to east, are:

The IRT-Lexington Avenue subway line express trains (Numbers 4 and 5) run from Lower Manhattan, straight through the Upper East Side, making eight stops to East 125th

Street, and then it enters the Bronx. The nearby neighborhood is Mount Morris-Marcus Garvey Park. A short walk to West 130th Street, between Fifth Avenue and Malcomb X Boulevard, is where there are several, fine and intact, row-house strips as well as Astor Row.

The IRT Broadway express trains (Numbers 2 and 3) run from Lower Manhattan, making seven stops along Broadway to West Ninety-Sixth Street, and then they curve east, making five local stops in Central Harlem along Sixth Avenue (Malcomb X Boulevard), at:

  • West 110th Street;
  • West 116th Street;
  • West 125th Street;
  • West 135th Street; West 145th Street.

The express train terminates at West 148th Street, on Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard (Seventh Avenue). Now Manhattanville, the quarter includes several row house clusters, with stoops intact, which are interspersed between recent row-house restorations as well as several modern, low-rise housing developments (some excellently executed, others not); each is a short walk to and from a subway stop. The IRT Broadway local (Number 1) then continues north, making express and local stops, on:

  • West 103th Street;
  • West 110th Street;
  • West 116th Street;
  • West 125th Street; West 137th Street;
  • West 145th Street; West 157th Street.

These local stops, moreover, are all within walking distance to upper Riverside Drive. The West 137th and 145th Street stops are nearby City College of the City University of New York campus as well as the expanded Hamilton Heights Historic District neighborhoods.

The Independent subway line can be extremely useful, and offers express and local service. The IND-Eighth Avenue express train runs along Sixth or Eighth Avenues. Both the A (Eighth Avenue) and D and B (Sixth Avenue) express trains stop at the major crosstown streets between Lower Manhattan, and a 12-minute ride that covers the West 59th Street Columbus Circle station to West 125th Street. The IND Sixth Avenue (B and D) express trains run from West Canal Street, making seven stops to West 125th Street, at St. Nicholas Avenue. After their final Manhattan stop, West 145th Street, the B and D train head to the Bronx.

From Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard, the Eighth Avenue A train follows St. Nicholas Avenue’s path. It runs immediately west of Frederick Douglass Boulevard. Within Central Harlem, the express stops are West 125th and 145th Streets. These stations are nearby to King’s Model Homes, the St. Nicholas Historic District as well as St. Nicholas Park. Furthermore, in northern Harlem, the West 155th Street express stop is accessible to Audubon Park, as well as the town house and flats building rows, on and off Riverside Drive and St. Nicholas Place.

The IND Eighth Avenue (C) local train makes all stops between Lower Manhattan and West 145th Street. The Lower Manhattan, Downtown and Midtown West, together with the Upper West Side stations are too numerous to specify. However, the Harlem local and express stations, from south to north, begin with West 110th Street, at Central Park West, and West 116th Street, at Frederick Douglass Boulevard. Then, running under St. Nicholas Avenue’s path, are West 125th, 135th Street, 145th, and 155th Street.