A walk through Harlem, New York, NYC, November 2005
(Photos/words © urban75, Nov 2005, updated Sept 2006)
The historic Lenox Lounge has been a focus of the Harlem community since the late 1930s, featuring jazz legends such as Billie Holiday, Miles Davis, and John Coltrane, as well as reputedly being a hangout for Malcolm X.
Inside is one of the few original art-deco club interiors left in New York City.
Arriving from Germany in 1895 and starting out as a street peddler, Louis Blumstein opened his first store in Hudson Street in 1894, before moving the store to West 125th Street between Seventh and Eighth Avenues, four years later.
After Blumstein's death in 1920, his family demolished the store and replaced it with a $1 million, five-storey building, faced in a curious mix of late Art Nouveau and early Art Deco.
A growing black population in the area in the 1920s wasn't reflected by the store's employees, and it wasn't until 1929 that the store hired its first blacks, and then only in lowly jobs like elevator operators and porters.
In 1934, the Rev. John H. Johnson began a 'Buy-Where-You-Can-Work' campaign, which was backed by The New York Age newspaper which noted that three quarters of Blumstein's sales were to blacks but the company refused to employ black clerks or cashiers
A high profile boycott was called, with William Blumstein finally capitulating in July and pledging to hire 35 blacks in clerical and sales positions by the end of September - a decision that attracted a 1,500-strong victory parade.
The New York Times reports that Blumstein's went on to have the first black Santa Claus in 1943 and became the first company to use black models and mannequins.
Sold off by the family in 1976, The Blumstein building is now owned by Parkseen Realty Associates, with the main floor broken up into separate stores.
The building looked in pretty poor condition when we visited, although the unlit neon sign remains as a reminder of this important store.
Near derelict grand old building on W 125th and Lenox Avenue.
Puppy's Leather Outlet: 'Eat what you want...Then come see Puppy'
Jimmy Jazz clothing store and derelict building, Harlem.
Opened in 2000, the $58 million Harlem USA shopping mall on 125th Street features a nine-screen cineplex and an Old Navy store and marked a turning point in the renaissance of Harlem.
Located in Harlem at 125th and Seventh Avenue (Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard), the famous Theresa Hotel was opened in 1913 and remained the tallest building in Harlem until 1973.
Known as the 'Waldorf Astoria of Harlem,' the hotel accepted only white guests plus a few black celebrities until 1940.
Famous guests include Louis Armstrong, Sugar Ray Robinson, Duke Ellington, Muhammad Ali, Dinah Washington, Ray Charles, Little Richard, and Jimi Hendrix.
Fidel Castro famously elected to stay in Harlem while visiting New York to draw attention to racial divisions in America.
In 1960 Nikita Kruschev went to meet Castro in the hotel, and John F. Kennedy campaigned for the presidency at the hotel in October of that year.
The hotel closed in 1967, with the building being converted to office space in 1971, and renamed 'Theresa Towers.'
Another derelict building, just off W 125th.
The Wikipedia entry for Harlem explains how so many buildings ended up empty:
"There was little investment in private homes or businesses in the neighborhood between 1911 and the 1990s.
However, the unwillingness of landlords elsewhere in the city to rent to black tenants, together with a significant increase in the black population of New York, meant that rents in Harlem were for many years higher than rents elsewhere in the city, even as the housing stock decayed. In 1920, one-room apartments in central Harlem rented for $40 to whites or $100-$125 to blacks.
In the late 1920s, a typical white working class family in New York paid $6.67 per month per room, while blacks in Harlem paid $9.50 for the same space.
The worse the accommodations and more desperate the renter, the higher the rents would be.
This pattern would persist through the 1960s; in 1965, CERGE reported that a one room apartment in Harlem rented for $50-$74, while comparable apartments rented for $30-$49 in white slums.
The high rents encouraged some property speculators to engage in block busting, a practice whereby they would acquire a single property on a block and sell or rent it to blacks with great publicity. Other landowners would panic, and the speculators would then buy additional houses relatively cheaply. These houses could then be rented profitably to blacks."
Can collector trundles along with his impressive hoard.
South Beach Cafe, W124th and Lenox Ave/Malcolm X Blvd.
A fine brown stone late Victorian/earl Edwardian five-story building lying derelict, E 116 St and 5th Avenue.
A rather started-looking illustration of Martin Luther King.
Opened in 1993, the Charles A. Dana Discovery Centre provides environmental education and activities.
Harlem Meer, an 11-acre lake at the northern end of Central Park.
The Conservatory Garden, Central Park.
Walking downtown from Harlem we came across the Museum of the City Of New York and spent a very enjoyable few hours inside.