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Hamilton Heights/Sugar Hill/West Harlem Historic District

West Harlem / Hamilton Heights / Sugar Hill

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The Hamilton Heights / Sugar Hill / West Harlem Historic Distric is one of the City's most architecturally distinguished and culturally significant neighborhoods. The development of the area from West 135th to West 155th Street, Edgecombe Avenue to the Hudson, spans a period of over 350 years and is an exciting and evolving chapter of the settlement of Manhattan Island and the development of New York City.

By the early years of the 20th century, much of Hamilton Heights as it exists today had already been constructed. The row houses, built in a variety of styles such as Beaux Arts, Queen Anne, Dutch and Romanesque Revival, and in a rich palette of colors and materials, are considered among New York City's most beautiful. The work of many notable architects, including Neville & Bagge, George Pelham, and William Mowbray, is represented here. Early residents of these houses were middle-class, professional people and their families, either native-born or immigrants from Germany, Ireland, and Italy. Norman Rockwell, America's great illustrator, lived with his parents, from age three to seven at 789 St. Nicholas Avenue. The impresario Oscar Hammerstein I lived at 333 Edgecombe Avenue. George Gershwin wrote his first hit song ''Swanee'' at his residence at 520 W. 144 street in 1919.

In the 1920s and 1930s, as an increasing black population occupied Harlem's housing, many affluent African-Americans began to discover Hamilton Heights. During these years, the Harlem Renaissance was in full swing, and many of the new residents were artists, writers, musicians, government workers, and professionals. Part of the area became known as ''Sugar Hill'', where the sweet life was enjoyed. At that time, the neighborhood's most elite addresses were 409 and 555 Edgecombe Avenue. Important residents of 409 included singer Julius Bledsoe (the original Joe in Showboat); William Braithwaite, poet and novelist; Eunice Carter, one New York State's first African-American judges; May Chinn, a pioneering physician; Aaron Douglas, the great muralist; W.E.B. DuBois, founder of the NAACP and editor of Crisis; and Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American Supreme Court Justice. Number 555 boasted actor and political activist Paul Robeson; legendary jazz pianist Count Basie; and social psychologist Kenneth Clark.

Community Tours Sites & Attractions: Historic Sites & Attractions West Harlem / Hamilton Heights / Sugar Hill

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