The first European settlement in what is now Harlem was by Dutch settlers and was named in 1658 as Nieuw Haarlem (or New Haarlem), after the Dutch city of Haarlem.
In the 1920s and '30s, the district of Harlem became the focus of a flowering in African American culture that became known as the "Harlem Renaissance" - a time of great artistic creativity, but from which, ironically, many African-Americans were excluded from viewing what they themselves were creating. Many jazz venues, like Small's and the Cotton Club (where Duke Ellington played) were open to white customers only.
While old standbys like Sylvia's soul food restaurant and the Apollo Theater are still going strong, Harlem and particularly 125th Street are amidst a renaissance as new homeowners renovate historic brownstones and new development surges. A new Marriott hotel is planned for 125th and Park, and there's always former President Bill Clinton's offices in the neighborhood as well. Further north from Harlem are Washington Heights and Inwood, unlikely to be on most tourists' radar screen but also fast improving from their days as by-words for urban blight. There are famous churches in the area, such as the Abyssinian Baptist Church, and some of these have famous gospel choirs.
• Morris-Jumel Mansion, 65 Jumel Ter. (C subway line (163rd Street stop) or M2, M3, M100, or M101 buses), 212-923-8008 - Built in 1765, this is the oldest house on Manhattan Island. It served as George Washington's headquarters in 1776. Currently a museum set on a 1.5-acre park, it features a decorative-arts collection representing the colonial and Revolutionary War periods. Washington's office is among the 12 restored rooms. The mansion is accessible by the C subway line (163rd Street stop) and by the M2, M3, M100, and M101 buses.
• The Cloisters - Located on four acres overlooking the Hudson River in northern Manhattan's Fort Tryon Park, the building incorporates elements from five medieval French cloisters--quadrangles enclosed by a roofed or vaulted passageway, or arcade--and from other monastic sites in southern France. Its gardens are a great way to spend a nice afternoon. Pay for the Cloisters or the Metropolitan Museum, and see both for one price.
Catch great jazz in the Zebra Room at the Lenox Lounge at 288 Lenox Avenue (tel. 212-427-0253). Take the 2 or 3 train to 125th St. and you're there.
Adapted from WikiTravel under the Wiki License
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