Harlem: a walking tour of the historic New York neighborhood
Harlem's real estate boom, so frequently talked about in the last few years, may or may not be fizzling. But regardless of the price of an apartment, this slice of uptown Manhattan is still a rich neighborhood for a walking tour because of its centrality to African-American history -- as well as to the arts and letters of the 20th century generally. --TED LOOS. Special to Newsday
To get to Harlem, take the A Train like the song says (the B or C will also work) to 125th street (or drive and park nearby). Ella Fitzgerald, who famously sang that tune, made her debut at the Apollo Theater (253 W. 125th St.), just a short walk from the station. The theater, built in 1914, grew to become one of the most important venues for performers, launching the careers of superstars such as Aretha Franklin, Billie Holiday and Mariah Carey. After several renovations, it's still going strong. (Sept. 30, 2012)
At the end of the block stands what once was the Hotel Theresa (right). Built in the early 1910s in a neo-Renaissance style, the landmarked hotel housed many important African-American personalities at a time when the other hotels in the city turned them down. With its white exterior and arched roof, the building still cuts an imposing figure, although it's now part of Teachers College at Columbia University. Across the street is a statue of the Rev. Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., a member of Congress from the mid-1940s through the early '70s.
If you're feeling energetic, take a left and head up 10 blocks to the intersection of 135th Street and Lenox Avenue. There stands Metropolitan AME (African Methodist-Episcopal) Church, with its beguiling brick facade sandwiched between office buildings. The church was built in the mid-19th century, and has held a funeral for Frederick Douglass and a memorial service for Rosa Parks. Just over three blocks away is the landmark Abyssinian Baptist Church (132 Odell Clark Place, near 138th Street and Lennox Avenue), where both Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., and his father have served as pastors.
Taking a right onto Fifth Avenue, and heading south again will lead you to the Collyer Brothers Park, a tiny, quiet respite on the spot where the mansion of the infamous hoarders once stood (2078 Fifth Ave.). The story of the reclusive brothers was recently fictionalized in E.L. Doctorow's "Homer & Langley," and a stop here may inspire you to clean out the garage. (Sept. 30, 2012)
Around the corner is the house where the great Harlem Renaissance poet and critic Langston Hughes wrote much of his work. Hughes lived on the top floor of the ivy-covered brownstone (20 E. 127th St.), a typical Harlem beauty. (Sept. 30, 2012)
As you wend your way back to where you started, it might be time for a nosh, and you have two great dining options: the old school and the new school. The former, Sylvia's, is found at the celebrated soul food joint Sylvia's (328 Lenox Ave., 212-996-0660, sylviasrestaurant.com), founded by the late Sylvia Woods. (Sept. 30, 2012)
Under Sylvia's humble purple awning is the restaurant that spawned a beauty-care line, a prepackaged food line and even a children's book. But the gospel Sunday brunch is still a main attraction. (Sept. 30, 2012)
Sylvia's popular red velvet cake. (Sept. 30, 2012)
The newer sensation is Top Chef Marcus Samuelsson's Red Rooster (310 Lenox Ave., 212-792-9001, redroosterharlem.com), which takes neighborhood traditions (it's named after a local speak-easy) and gives them a modern spin. (Sept. 30, 2012)
Try Red Rooster's "fried yard bird" ($26) at dinner. (April 4, 2011)
Tables are set in the bar area at Red Rooster. (April 4, 2011)
Red Rooster's lively and sophisticated atmosphere makes the perfect end to a Harlem walking tour. (April 4, 2011)