What do Alexander Hamilton, Billie Holliday, Bill Clinton, Langston Hughes, and WEB Dubois all have in common? They have all had a presence in Harlem.
Harlem is one of the richest, most culturally vibrant neighborhoods in New York City. Jazz, Swing, Rap, and Hip-hop all can trace roots back to this historic neighborhood, and the historic churches, and important literary and political figures that have made a home between 96th and 157th Streets on Manhattan’s west side have contributed greatly to our cultural heritage.
Today, Harlem is not only a world-famous landmark for some of the greatest contributors to American and African American culture—it’s a neighborhood on the rise, with new families, businesses, and cultural do people want to live there? The answer for many is a resounding yes. This once downtrodden occasionally maligned ‘hood is experiencing a rate of economic growth and development not seen since the Harlem Renaissance back in the 1920s and 30s—and the tide shows no signs of slowing.
In 1658, Dutch governor Peter Stuyvesant established the village of Nieuw Haarlem (named for the Dutch town of Haarlem) on the upper end of Manhattan Island. Rich farms populated the flat eastern section, while influential families maintained large estates in the high, western portion.
Economic decline first struck Harlem in the 1830’s, when many of the village’s farms, which had been depleted by over cultivation, were sold at public auction. The great estates were divided up, and declined into a scattered array of shantytowns, which in turn became a refuge for destitute immigrants. The surrounding areas retained their rural flavor and the area remained a scenic landscape.