Posts Tagged ‘Harlem Renaissance’

Sugar Hill: once Harlem’s most glamorous enclave

January 28, 2013

Harlem has lots of lovely, little-known streets and micro-neighborhoods. One of the grandest is Sugar Hill, an area rich with beautiful row houses, handsome apartment buildings, and a towering view of upper Manhattan.


Bounded roughly by 145th Street to the upper 150s and Edgecombe and Amsterdam Avenues, it was developed in the early 20th century for well-to-do white New Yorkers.


But after a real-estate recession, the neighborhood soon become home to a black elite, a place synonymous with money and the sweet life.

409Edgecombeave“By the late 1920s, an area that had once been part of Washington Heights was gradually becoming Sugar Hill,” according to the Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance.

“This new upscale neighborhood would eventually become home to black celebrities such as Cab Calloway, Paul Robeson, and A’Lelia Walker and would have an influence on the Harlem Renaissance because the writers, musicians, athletes, civic and political leaders, and others who came to live on Sugar Hill sponsored and participated in talks, soirees, and literary gatherings there.”

SugarhilledgecombeaveviewA century later, the architectural treasures of Sugar Hill remain, like the neo-
renaissance houses in the top photo, built from 1896 and 1898 on St. Nicholas Avenue.

At 409 Edgecombe Avenue is a 1917 apartment residence (above). It’s the former home of W.E.B. DuBois and Thurgood Marshall. The view across Jackie Robinson Park is pretty incredible (right).

The “Tree of Hope” of the Harlem Renaissance

November 12, 2009

During the 1920s and 1930s, Seventh Avenue in the 130s was nicknamed the Boulevard of Dreams, a stretch of Harlem lined with top theaters and clubs such as the Lafayette Theater and Connie’s Inn.


Between these venues was a lone elm tree (see it above) known as the Tree of Hope, bringing good luck to any up-and-coming entertainer who touched it before hitting the stage—as Ethel Waters, Eubie Blake, and other legends supposedly did.

Treeofhopeplaque2The tree didn’t last long though; it was chopped down in 1934 when the city widened Seventh Avenue. Part of it went to the Apollo Theater, while the rest was cut up into souvenirs.

A second tree was soon planted in its place by Bill (Bojangles) Robinson, but that too met the ax. 

This plaque, however, serves as a reminder of it on Seventh Avenue and 131st Street.