Jazz, soul and sights: promises of a walking tour through Harlem
From Morningside Heights to a walking tour through Harlem, Upper Manhattan marches to the beat of its own drum, writes Kristie Hayden.
It’s no secret that one of the best modes for discovering New York City is by foot. All senses are alive as you see the faces of the city up close, feel the lay of the land, hear the many levels of its song and taste the local cuisine.
To explore the urban neighbourhoods with a New York native not only puts the story of the place in context, it leaves you with a greater appreciation for the cosmopolitan city that so clearly exists in all tenses; past, present and future.
A recent documentary about Bruno Mars trotting the blocks of Harlem to meet and jam with locals inspired me to visit this working class community, albeit with zero musical talent. While Bruno’s day ended with a free concert at Harlem’s famed Apollo Theatre, mine gave me the lowdown of these colourful streets thanks to my walking guide. Shawn went beyond the cookie-cutter tour experience to immerse me in the story that shaped the pointy end of an otherwise affluent New York borough.
[caption id="attachment_42795" align="alignleft" width="670"] The Apollo Theatre is one of the oldest theaters in the US[/caption]
Far from the busyness south of Central Park, Harlem life feels slower, more suburban and more communal.
In the early 19th century, more than half of New York’s population was foreign-born. Churches sought to unify communities, finding common ground between cultures and politics with gospel. In the early 20th century, St. Philip's Episcopal Church on West 134th Street became one of the first of Harlem’s churches to purposefully attract African-Americans to its congregation.
[caption id="attachment_42799" align="alignleft" width="1275"] Traffic under Riverside Drive Viaduct, HarlemStrivers’ Row, formally designated the St. Nicholas Historic District, is a leafy neighbourhood on 138th and 139th Streets. The Neo-Italian and Georgian townhouses sit back to back in rows and are adorned with elegant rod-iron gates and, unusually for New York, rear laneways, courtyards and spacious parking. First populated at the turn of the 20th century, the neighbourhood was a white enclave for many years however, since the 1920s, young black professionals, lured largely by the gospel community and Harlem’s affordability, have owned the elegant houses.[/caption]
Next, the historic Astor Row, on West 130th Street, reveals 28 semi-detached row houses dating back to 1883. Flanked by verdant trees and colourful gardens, the neighbourhood was neglected for much of the 20th century. In 1981, the houses were designated a New York City landmark and the community raised money to restore their facades, their rotting wooden porches and their utilities. In 1992, Ella Fitzgerald performed a benefit at Radio City Music Hall to help fund the restoration.
Harlem’s western edge, bordered by the Hudson River, is home to Columbia College in Morningside Heights and neighbouring public City College in Hamilton Heights. This is the academic corner of Manhattan’s north.
Founded as King’s College in 1754, Columbia College is one of eight distinguished Ivy League colleges in the eastern United States. While their heritage buildings are blanketed in ivy, the universities’ cultures exude academic excellence and, often, social elitism. As we wandered past the original Columbia library, I imagined Barack Obama throwing his hat in the air after graduation. I also considered the first women to graduate, as 1983 saw Columbia become the last Ivy League school to admit women 229 years after its founding. And another important note, the cafeteria served the best latte I’d had since landing at JFK.
[caption id="attachment_42796" align="alignleft" width="670"] CCNY is the first and oldest campus of the New York City public university systemDown the road, City College, established in 1847 as The Free Academy, aimed to provide access to children of immigrants and the working class based solely on academic merit. The school’s first president exclaimed, “The experiment is to be tried, whether the children of the people, the children of the whole people, can be educated; and whether an institution of the highest grade, can be successfully controlled by the popular will, not by the privileged few." In 1907, the college moved to its current location in the heart of Harlem. Once dubbed the poor man’s Harvard, the school has produced 10 Nobel Prize winners. A successful democratic ‘experiment’ to say the least.[/caption]
Built almost entirely from Manhattan schist rock and set on 36 tree-lined acres, the Neo-Gothic city campus is one of the most unique properties in New York. Schist, the most prevalent bedrock in Manhattan, has a glittering appearance caused by flecks of white mica within the rock. Due to its strength, naturally occurring schist anchors New York’s highest sky scrapers.
During Bill Clinton’s presidential tenure from 1993 to 2001, his administration was a great supporter of Harlem. In 2008, the Clinton Foundation, whose office remained in Harlem until 2011, provided grants to attract businesses to the area, building on Clinton’s long-term commitment to help the community to achieve greater levels of progress and prosperity. The Harlem Restaurant Program sought to revitalise the hospitality industry, attract more tourism and improve the quality of life for its residents.
Today, the restaurant scene is a thriving illustration of Harlem’s multicultural heritage. Many restaurant precincts across the neighbourhoods give off a new-generation vibe thanks to affordability for young entrepreneurs to set up shop.
Famous restaurants like the Red Rooster in one of Harlem’s liveliest neighbourhoods, and those along 116th Street’s Restaurant Row, have become drawcards for tourists from across the globe in recent years. Yet Shawn draws me to lesser-known establishments. Lenox Fish Market and BLVD Bistro NY, on Malcolm X Boulevard will have you eating soul food like a local. And Accra, on Adam Clayton Powell Jr Boulevard epitomises West African cuisine.
[caption id="attachment_42794" align="alignleft" width="1500"] The urban historic apartment buildings are a staple of the Harlem neighborhood[/caption]
Bill’s Place on 133rd Street, dubbed Speakeasy Row. An intimate club launched by Harlem native and legendary saxophonist Bill Saxton.
Ginny’s Supper Club and MIST Harlem for live music and performances and Ashford & Simpson's for open mic nights.
Amateur Night at the Apollo to see the stars of tomorrow.
Harlem is located on the northern end of the New York borough of Manhattan, approximately 30 kilometres north-west of John F Kennedy International Airport.
For walking tours of Harlem, visit www.realnewyorktours.com.
New York (and more!) is on sale this Fourth of July!
To celebrate the Fourth of July, America's biggest national holiday with all the pie-eating contests, fireworks and live performances that entails, we’ve round up the best holiday deals so you can set your sights on an epic adventure in the USA.
NYC is on sale with Virgin Australia and Delta
Land of the free, home of the brave. It’s the Fourth of July in the USA. Virgin Australia and Delta Air Lines are celebrating with specials on flights and holiday packages to the Big Apple. Flights from $1,199 departing Sydney, Brisbane or Melbourne to New York City via Los Angeles and 10% off NYC holidays.
Are you a Velocity Member? Earn from 9,628 Velocity Points and 60 Status Credits. Hurry, sale ends midnight Tuesday 17 July, 2018. (T&Cs applies)
Head to Virgin Australia for more information and to book.
See the real Brooklyn with a one-of-a-kind tour
Are you looking for a fun, adventure-packed bus tour that will take you to the iconic landmarks, movie locations and the best food that Brooklyn has to offer while also making you feel like part of the family? Then look no further than A Slice of Brooklyn Bus Tours!
We don’t just show you around Brooklyn – we ARE Brooklyn.
Our guides are born, bred, and live in the borough, so we’ll give you the genuine Brooklyn experience you’re looking for!
Whether you’re looking for something to do with the whole family, a group of friends or are travelling solo you’ll feel like a friend is taking you around Brooklyn. You’ll leave the tour with a newfound appreciation for one of the most amazing places in the United States and memories that will last a lifetime.
For an exciting, authentic tour experience, look no further! Your feet will thank you too as you relax on a plush tour bus, rain or shine!
Experience the Real America, for less, with Trafalgar
North America might be known for its dazzling attractions and larger-than-life landscapes, but go beyond its epic proportions and you’ll find that the most rewarding treasures are to be found in its people. Join us as we unearth the local stories of the USA and Canada on a collection of real Trafalgar experiences that you won’t find anywhere else.
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Dive Into Culture with an array of unforgettable experiences including a chance to indulge your inner country music fan with stories of Johnny Cash in Nashville, and a performance of his tunes by his son or granddaughter on Tastes and Sounds of The South or Connect With Locals at an award winning winery in the Californian countryside, with owner Karen showing you the art of olive oil making on Coastal California with Yosemite National Park.
Enjoy the best of the USA on Tastes and Sounds of the South
Early payment discount NOW: $3,685.50 per person
WAS: $4,095 per person. SAVE: $409.50 per person
Live The Good Life in the Americas with Trafalgar
For more information and to book, visit Trafalgar.com/en-au
See the best Colorado has to offer
From the Rocky Mountains to the Great Plains, Colorado is a place for unparalleled adventure. Now all you need is an itinerary…
Bordering Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Utah (it also touches Arizona at the famous Four Corners), Colorado is a Middle American state with immense character and an exhilarating history, with a rich Gold Rush heritage dating back to the 1800s and strong lineage to the Old Wild West.
However, where Colorado truly stands out from the crowd is within its picture-perfect landscape. Bountiful in mountains, forests, canyons, river plains and deserts, it’s an adventurer’s dream destination.
Shining a big spotlight on Colorado, we made it our mission to discover eight quirky and utterly unique things to do in Colorado
American Airlines will get you there
To celebrate American Independence Day on 4 July, the largest airline in the world is having a Big USA Sale, with discounts on fares to all US destinations.
With fares starting from $999 SYD to LA, why not explore more of the USA with these fantastic deals, and start your trip the moment you step on board?
American operates the state-of-the-art 787-9 Dreamliner on this daily service. You can choose from our Flagship Business cabin with lie-flat all aisle-access seats, and menu by Celebrity chef Sean Connolly, Premium economy with all the premium extras, or our Main cabin products, offering International Wi-Fi, power outlets at every seat, and over 1,000 entertainment options.
American Airlines and American Eagle offer an average of nearly 6,200 flights per day to nearly 354 destinations in more than 56 countries. American has hubs in Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas/Fort Worth, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, Phoenix, and Washington, D.C.
For more information and to book contact American Airlines
Forget Hollywood, it's all about Southern California
If you’re looking for a true taste of the golden-tinged, palm-fringed good life, it’s hard to beat Southern California.
Here, you’ll discover perfect stretches of coastline, unique cuisine, an incredible range of cultural attractions and influences, non-stop nightlife and – most importantly – the intangible, laidback SoCal vibe that imbues this sought-after, sunbathed region with a special kind of magic. Let the good times roll as you uncover the Five Southern California hot spots locals want to keep a secret.
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