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Historic West Harlem: Traces Places Faces

As part of the OHNY Weekend, Historic West Harlem: Traces Places Faces – highlights the new West Harlem State and National Register Historic District. Designated, Nov. 2022, it comprises a cohesive enclave of late-nineteenth and early-twentieth-century housing types. “New-Law” apartment buildings, featuring much-improved  provisions for light and air, predominate.

Some were designed by New York’s most prominent, nationally known designers, like McKim, Mead & White. However, most are the work of firms few have ever heard of. Modest stature hardly makes them insignificant. Made up on the whole by members of recent immigrant families, they were some of the city’s most prolific firms including, Buchman & Deisler, Charles E. Birge, Henri Fouchaux, Hugo Kafka, and Lamb & Rich.  Theater specialist Thomas Lamb’s projects also appear here.

0nce considered lower Washington Heights as far south as 135th Street, the district thrived as a refuge welcoming European transplants. As  Central Harlem evolved into the capital of Black America, the 1940’s and 50’s saw this neighborhood changed back into Harlem Heights a name used by Dutch colonist as far back as the late seventeenth century.

Combating racial discrimination Black politicians and community leaders, like Rev. Adam Clayton Powell Jr., strategically acquired Eugene Ramsey, and Dr. Charles N. Ford, acquired  Riverside Drive apartment houses to foster change. Their efforts made West Harlem into an expansion of Sugar Hill, the center of an an African American elite.  Black Riverside Drive tenants and property owners were influential citizens both socially active and involved in the Civil Rights movement, public service, and fostering education and culture.

Join historian, preservation activist and author Michael Henry Adams on a 4-hour exploration tracing the district’s diverse history, architecture, and past residents juxtaposed with today’s activists seeking to preserve not just notable buildings but west Harlem’s Black History and culture as well.

Our hop-on-and-off motorcoach excursion concludes with a superb  offering of Harlem’s best soul food at Miss Mamie’s Spoonbread Restaurant. (the optional pre-fixe meal requires a separate fee)

Meeting point: 125th Street and Broadway, subway entrance on the NW corner.

Activity start time: 12:00 Noon

Activity end time: 4:00 pm

Optional late Soul Food Lunch: 4:00 pm – 5:00 pm, – $25.00 per person plus tax and service.

RSVP required for tour and lunch, limited to 50 maximum


Oct 21 2023


12:00 pm - 4:00 pm


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Formats (virtual, in person, hybrid)



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