Central Harlem is an enclave filled with cultural landmarks, gilded age brownstones and a vibe you don’t find in many neighborhoods these days. Mount Morris Park Historic District, located in west central Harlem, is a vibrant neighborhood with tree-lined streets and gorgeous brownstones. The large 16-block section is the byproduct of Harlem’s first building boom and should not be confused with Mount Morris Park, which is a 20-acre park that was renamed Marcus Garvey Memorial Park in 1977. What can we say? Sometimes gentrification complicates things.
The boundaries of Mount Morris Park Historic District are West 118th and West 124th Streets, Fifth Avenue, and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard. The neighborhood was designated a historic district by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission in 1971. Architectural buffs will be enamoured by the neighborhood's handsome architecture that includes late 19th- and early 20th century row houses designed in the Romanesque Revival, neo-Grec and Queen Anne style.
Harlem is big in size and rich in culture. Whether you’re a foodie, fan of architecture, jazz musician, or a self proclaimed urban explorer, you’ll definitely find something to do in this neck of the woods.
For a quick get away without leaving the island of Manhattan, try staying a few nights in the Mount Morris House, a grand Manhattan townhouse built in 1888. This meticulously restored home has kept much of its original charm and detail while offering modern day amenities. It’s a bed and breakfast style hotel, so stay awhile and get a sense of this vibrant community. It's steps from Central Park, Marcus Garvey Park, and of course the iconic Apollo Theater.
Studio Museum is a well known spot amongst Harlem locals and it celebrates artists of African American descent. It offers everything from thought provoking artist-in-residence exhibits to educational programs, and it’s a very special place in the heart of Harlem.
Hands down! Sylvia’s is the queen of soul food. Family owned since 1962, it’s a Harlem institution. It is by far one of the best authentic soul food restaurants in the area. The Apollo Theatre is the crown Jewel of Harlem. Watch a show like amatuer night or just take a tour of this iconic building. You’ll leave with a smile on your face and feel a little closer to the neighborhood.
What you Might See
Churches, plenty of churches. There are over 400 houses of worship in Harlem. Some are small storefronts while others exhibit sprawling renditions of Romanesque Revival architecture. You will see parks and tree lined streets with fantastic turn-of-the-century row houses. Wander outside the small historic area and you’ll see plenty of street vendors selling everything from t-shirts to flavored juices.
What You Might Not Know
Many of the streets and avenues in Harlem are co-named after famous leaders and Harlem residents. Lenox Avenue co-named Malcolm X Boulevard, 125th Street co-named Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, and Eighth Avenue co-named Frederick Douglass Boulevard. The Boys Choir of Harlem, founded in 1968 at the Ephesus Seventh-Day Adventist Church on 123rd Street is the pride and joy of the community. It is credited for keeping young Central Harlem men out of harm's way through the power of song.
What We Love
Besides the brownstones and church architecture, we love Mount Morris Park Historic District’s rich history. The neighborhood and its surrounding areas have a contagious sense of community. Harlem is defined by music, food, and cultural events. We love it’s spirit and its bounce.