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Trip Report Harlem walking tour

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Back in April, I asked on this forum for feedback on a possible Harlem walking tour I was contemplating. Unfortunately, I got minimal help and maximal (and perhaps predictable) snarly attitudes about my request on this forum, especially with regards to safety issues:


When I went over to city-data.com, by contrast, things were quite different. Two posters there in particular, DAS and KRS88 were great, but in general I encountered plenty of folks eager to assist who had no shortage of good information. I finally got a chance to do this walking tour not long ago, and wanted to pass along the information I got there for the benefit of others. Here's the thread:


I am heavily in debt to city-data posters DAS and KRS88 for a decent bit of this information and hereby give them due credit.

I started in the Jumel Terrace Historic District (just east of St. Nicholas Avenue between 160th and 162nd streets), highlights being Sylvan Terrace and the Morris-Jumel Mansion (65 Jumel Terrace). Took a C train up to 163rd Street to get there. Sylvan Terrace is a short street with an unusual clutch of row-house buildings that look nothing like Manhattan residences. The Morris-Jumel is an attractive old building from the 1700s with some pleasing period furnishings -- George Washington indeed slept here and used it as a command point during the Revolutionary War's Battle of Harlem.

Next, walked down St. Nicholas Ave. after leaving the Morris Jumel Mansion until I got to 152nd St., this area being called Sugar Hill. There, Convent Avenue jags diagonally to the right off St. Nicholas, and I headed down this street. This becomes the Hamilton Heights area almost immediately. Both streets are lined with Art Deco apartment buildings as well as gorgeous brownstones and limestones, with Convent Avenue having an especially heavy concentration of these. A highlight is Convent Ave. Baptist Church, which sits on the corner of 145th and Convent, a beautiful white limestone traditional church building (also managed to see the inside, which had plenty of nicely understated stained glass and woodwork).

Next took a left on 144th St., which winds around to the right and becomes Hamilton Terrace. There were very attractive historic brownstones here. At the end of the street, you can see where they have moved the Hamilton Grange mansion of Alexander Hamilton into St. Nicholas Park (the house is still a work-in-progress, not open for tours yet). Hamilton Terrace ends at 141st Street. Took a left here, then at Edgecombe Avenue took a right. Passed by St Marks Methodist church, another beautiful traditional styled church building (couldn't see inside, though -- locked up). There are a few more Art Deco styled apartment buildings and brownstones as well on Edgecombe.

At 139th Street, I took a left and went down to Striver's Row, a clutch of connected-style turn of the 20th century townhouses on this street between Adam Clayton Powell Blvd. and Frederick Douglass Blvd. Took a right at the end of the second of these streets. From here, walked to the nearby Abyssinian Baptist Church (took a left onto W. 138th St., church located between Malcolm X Blvd.and Adam Clayton Powell Blvd.) and the nearby Mother A.M.E. Zion Church (on W. 137th St. between Malcolm X Blvd.and Adam Clayton Powell Blvd.). Both are beautiful stone-style churches from outside (they look very similar), but unfortunately visitors are not permitted inside either unless attending a church service.

Next, doubled back down W. 137th, turned right onto Malcolm X Blvd., and visited the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture (515 Malcolm X Blvd.). This is Harlem's branch of the New York Public Library -- it has four hanging murals by Harlem Renaissance painter Aaron Douglas (very nice) and changing exhibits on black history and culture (when I went, it dealt with Brown Vs. Board of Education and its actual start in South Carolina -- Brown Vs. Board of Education concerned a Topeka KS school, but was bundled with three other cases). Interesting stuff.

I continued to walk down Malcolm X Blvd., which has some nice residential architecture of its own, taking a left onto 130th St. along the way to see the Astor Row Houses between this boulevard and 5th Ave. The right side of the street contains these houses, which have distinctive wooden porches, and all of which look similar -- they are in various stages of renovation at the moment. Headed back to Malcolm X Blvd. Had I not already gone there a few months ago, I would have ended up at the Studio Museum in Harlem (144 W. 125th St.), just off to the right. The time I went there, they had a number of small exhibitions and a somewhat bigger retrospective of items in their permanent collection, very much enjoyed.

To maximize the likelihood of a safe walk, it was recommended that I do so on a Saturday during daylight hours, or if during the week, to do so Wednesday through Friday between ca. 9 AM and 3 PM. Note that the Studio Museum and Morris-Jumel are closed Mondays and Tuesdays, while the Schomburg is closed Sundays. I did so on one of the weekdays, and found I could manage all this easily in a time frame running between 9:30 AM and 3 PM. In general the area seemed reasonably good, though least attractive at the northernmost spot on St. Nicholas Avenue.

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