The Harlem Tour

Seen Harlem yet? Really seen it? Not if you've just ridden quickly down a couple of its principal avenues atop a double-decker tour bus! To fully experience this neighborhood, you simply must explore the quieter side streets, since that's where much of Harlem's architectural beauty and historic distinction lies. On this SwingStreets tour, you’ll be able to do just that.

Harlem's most gorgeous residential blocks truly reflect uptown elegance, 1890s-style. This walk takes in a whole series of beautiful streetscapes. In fact, we'll pass through four landmarked districts in less than three hours. We begin in Harlem's northern reaches near Manhattan's oldest residence, located in the remarkable Jumel Terrace Historic District. Then we meander down St. Nicholas Ave. through the neighborhood long known as Sugar Hill.

Next, it's the Hamilton Heights Historic District, with blocks along Convent Avenue as lovely as any in the city. A wide variety of architectural styles is apparent in these homes. What’s more, thanks to extensive restoration efforts and a strong sense of community, this neighborhood is again a highly desirable place to live. Once we reach central Harlem, we stroll along famous Strivers Row – and witness still more evidence of a remarkable renaissance now underway uptown. Some of Manhattan’s most beautiful churches lie along this route. So do numerous sites associated with the civil rights struggle.

After a look at 125th St. (most famous for the Hotel Theresa and the Apollo Theater), we end with a stroll through the Mount Morris Historic District, formerly home to one of New York’s largest Jewish communities. Along the way are New York's only surviving fire watchtower...Alexander Hamilton's country cottage...a century-old church cobbled together from the discarded parts of three other buildings... the Tree of Hope...two onetime entire street lined with old-style wooden front porches... and the celebrated whites-only nightspot where both "Ain't Misbehavin'" and "Honeysuckle Rose" were first heard.

Langston Hughes, Marcus Garvey, Madam C.J. Walker, Father Divine, Scott Joplin, W.C. Handy, Eubie Blake, Jelly Roll Morton, Billie Holiday and Fats Waller all lived here. Joe Louis welcomed patrons at his own tavern. The Collyer Brothers’ famously cluttered townhouse made headlines around the world. And Pig Foot Mary sold so many home-cooked snacks out of a baby carriage along the sidewalk that she retired a wealthy woman. Other pleasant surprises in this area include the revitalized Lenox Avenue shopping apartment tower favored by tap dancers...a Turkish cigarette factory...the Malcolm X mosque...a couple of Ethiopian temples...Marcus Garvey Park...the stoop where that famous “Great Day in Harlem” photo was taken...and a bronze Duke Ellington held aloft by nine naked maidens.