As we come to the end of Black History Month and the beginning of Armory week here in Harlem, I thought it fitting to explore a street where some of black history was made – 125th Street. Here you will find a bustling thoroughfare of shops and colorful street vendors beneath the awnings of historic sights like The Apollo Theater and The Victoria Theater.
The Victoria Theater began life as The Loew’s Victoria Theater when it was designed in 1917, and remained a motion picture theater until 1977. It was designated a city landmark in 1993 and is about to be transformed to house not only an apartment complex and hotel but also office space that will include The Harlem Brewing Company’s Sugar Hill Beer, which actually was first invented in a townhouse in Harlem. The street level will house a restaurant and cultural center, keeping the integrity of the historic facade.
Just down the street is the historic Apollo Theater, which gave a platform to such greats as Ella Fitzgerald, Lena Horne, B.B. King and many more. The Apollo received landmark status in 1983 and is a magnet for locals and tourists with its spectacular performance calendar. These days, as the tour buses go ever so slow in front of the Apollo for picture snapping of the place that launched so many musical careers, you can’t help but notice the Red Lobster preparing to open next door and The Gap across the street, which opened this month. Some of Harlem’s changes are very well articulated in a soon to be released documentary “The Changing Face of Harlem”.
In between the invasion of some of the big stores and restaurants are the local untapped treasurers like Harlem Underground, Island Salad and the beautiful clothing & jewelry shop The Brownstone whose selection of Jerome Accessories I can not live without. Further east is The Demolition Depot with all their vintage mantels, windows and unexpected finds, and across the street is our local frame shop, H&M Gallery, carrying vintage posters of Harlem’s days gone by near Mushtari’s Hardware Shop that carries everything from light bulbs to rose bushes. There is so much to see on 125th Street that you can’t see from sitting on a bus, so for Black History Month and Armory Week in Harlem, get off the bus! Stroll the streets or take a tour. I guarantee you’ll come home with some untapped treasurable memories all your own.