It's summer. Time to put your walking shoes and take a tour of New York's great neigborhoods. Harlem Spirituals runs a series of such tours into multi-ethnic communities around the city. Here's a short history lesson on one of the city's most famous communities, Harlem:
Founded by Dutch settlers, in 1658, this 5 square mile area north of Central Parkwas essentially farmland where prominent New Yorkers had large country estates. Harlem was developed during the1880's, when elevated railroads made the area accessible to downtown New Yorkers. These included residents of English, Dutch, and German descent. For thirty years, Harlem was New York's most fashionable neighborhood, boasting an opera house (founded by Oscar Hammerstein in 1889), a philharmonic orchestra, and a yacht club.
In the 1920's, Harlem became a mecca for Black artists, writers, and intellectuals, who launched the artistic and literary movement known as the Harlem Renaissance. Notable names included writer Langston Hughes, painter Aaron Douglas, and sculptor Augusta Savage. Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong and other notable musicians rocked the houses of the Cotton Club, Apollo Theater and the Savoy Ballroom during the '20s and '30s
Harlem experienced growth and then decline over the next few decades as long time residents relocated and urban blight moved in. Today, the community is experiencing a revitalization and Harlem Spirituals takes you on a walk down this memory's rich lane.
One of the tours includes a visit to the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, the Mother AME Zion church (oldest Black church in the state), the Apollo Theater (showcase for extraordinary talent) Strivers Row (a collection of exceptional red hued townhouses) and City College (an esteemed member of the City University of NY system that has some of the city's most magnificent Gothic buildings). Walk and learn as you hear some of the history which has made Harlem world famous.
You'll be transported on the tours in comfortable coach buses but I recommend you wear comfortable shoes, carry a water bottle and don't wear shorts--they have a dress code.
Visit the Harlem Spirituals website for a complete listing of its tours. Great for locals as well as out of town guests.