Photo from United Palace

From lavish theaters to modern museums, New York City’s wonderfully diverse buildings boast a colorful, and oftentimes, surprising history. In fact, the “built environment,” according to Open House New York (OHNY) executive director Gregory Wessner, is often a direct reflection of the community that occupies it and the people that have helped to shape the city.

This year, in celebration of the New York City’s many enthralling architectural spaces, Open House New York (OHNY) and ARTNOIR are coming together to present ARTNOIR: City of Cultural Exchange during the 14th Annual OHNY Weekend on Oct. 15-16. The program will focus on ten unique sites across the city, which have served as catalysts for cultural exchange and conversation.

Here’s what you need to know about each building before OHNY Weekend begins and as a reminder, all of these are open access sites so you don’t need reservations.

1. United Palace

The United Palace first opened its doors in 1930 as one of the five Loews Wonder Palaces. Back then, it functioned as a vaudeville house and movie theater until preacher Rev. Ike purchased and restored the property. In honoring his legacy, the Palace now houses the United Palace House of Inspiration (UPHI) as well as the United Palace of Cultural Arts (UPCA), a nonprofit arts and cultural center that hosts a variety of events throughout the year. Its theater, with close to 3,400 seats, is the fourth largest in Manhattan.

TOUR INFO: The Palace’s public spaces, including the main theatre, foyer, and mezzanine, will all be open to visitors.

2. Louis Armstrong House Museum

The kitchen features custom made kitchen appliances. Image from Louis Armstrong Museum courtesy of Shore Fire Media.

Located in Corona, Queens, The Louis Armstrong House Museum celebrates the life and career of jazz musician Louis Armstrong, who once lived in the house with his wife, Lucille. Essentially a private home converted into an exhibition space, the museum holds four major research collections, including Louis’ scrapbooks, photos and manuscripts, among other things. Although some material has been removed and brought to Queens College for preservation, much of the house remains unchanged. Today, the building is both a National Historic Landmark and a New York City landmark.

TOUR INFO: Tours will be offered every hour on both days.

3. Andrew Freedman Home

Andrew Freedman House Bronx Untapped CitiesPhoto by Lynn Lieberman

The Andrew Freedman Home, named a New York City designated landmark in 1992, is a historic building that once served as a retirement home. Thanks to revitalization efforts by the Mid-Bronx Senior Citizens Council, it is now an event space and day-care-center. To this day, community-driven initiatives are still helping to transform the complex into a hub for arts and culture to serve residents of South Bronx. These programs are comprised of five distinct tracks: the AFC Small Business Incubator, the AFC Green Technology Institute, the AFC Apartments, the Arts & Media Center and the Culinary & Hospitality Initiative, which includes a Bed & Breakfast.

SAT TOUR INFO: The Dr. Drum’s Neighborhood Harvest Festival, featuring BombaYo’s Dr. Drum and the home’s Artists in Residence, will hold a day-long celebration of music and art.

4. Lower East Side Tenement Museum

Photo courtesy The Tenement Museum

The Tenement Museum honors America’s immigrants by preserving and telling the story of those who had settled on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. The landmark building that houses the museum is an actually a converted tenement apartment, built in 1863, which was once home to nearly 7,000 immigrants from the 1860s to the 1930s. As part of a partnership with ARTNOIR, OHNY Weekend visitors will have an opportunity to enjoy the “Irish Outsiders” tour that focuses on the lives of the Moores, an immigrant family struggling in 1869 New York.

5. The Black Lady Theatre – Slave II

In the 1980’s, Slave I Theater provided a space for activists like Al Sharpton and John Henrik Clarke, among others, to tackle and talk about civil rights issues concerning people of African descent. As such, it has served as a landmark in the Bedford-Stuyvesant community for over thirty years.

Located on 750 Nostrand Avenue in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, The Black Lady Theatre, also known as Slave II, is the sister theater of the historic Slave I Theater, dedicated to honoring and celebrating the Black woman – a head figure (backbone) in the Black family. For the first time in 20+ years, the building will open on OHNY Weekend and display fourteen original murals that once hung in the Slave I Theater. Over the past weekend, the roll down gates were removed and glass windows installed, reintroducing the space to the community.

6. Lewis H. Latimer House Museum

African American inventor and draftsman, Lewis H. Latimer (1848-1928), is best known for designing carbon filaments that gave way to age of electric light. His Victorian home, now the Lewis H. Latimer House Museum, is a symbol of his legacy. Located in Flushing, Queens, in a predominantly Asian immigrant community, the institution sheds light on Latimer’s and other African-Americans’ contributions to science and technology; it also offers bilingual tours to create a cross-cultural experience for visitors.

7. Marjorie Eliot’s Parlor Jazz


The Roger Morris Apartments, named after 18th Century British Loyalist, have provided a home to famous tenants over the years, including activist Paul Robeson and pianist Count Basie. Still, it is perhaps best known for its atypical live jazz scene. For over 20 years, resident Marjorie Eliot has hosted jazz performances inside her Harlem parlor every Sunday. Visitors from all over the world come to honor the legacy of what she calls “African American classical music.”

SUN TOUR INFO: Marjorie Eliot’s Parlor Jazz at 555 Edgecombe Ave #3F will host two free and open- to-the-public parlor jazz performances (1:00 p.m. and 3:30pm) on Sunday.

8. Museum of Art and Origins

The Museum of Art and Origins (Museu de Arte e Origens) houses an extensive collection of African Art, contemporary paintings, sculptures and photography inside a limestone town house. Situated on a Belgian block street facing Morris-Jumel Mansion (1765) – the oldest house in the borough of Manhattan, and the headquarters for both sides during the American Revolution – the museum features artwork from global artists including Thomas Bacarro, Emanoel and Hee Sook Kim, just to name a few.

9. Queens Museum

The Queens Museum, located in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park (the site of both the 1939 and 1964-65 World’s Fairs), is dedicated to presenting visual arts for people in the New York metropolitan area, and particularly for residents of the culturally diverse borough of Queens. It is home to contemporary art, as well as the Panorama of the City of New York, built by Robert Moses for the 1963-64 World’s Fair.


SUN TOUR INFO: OpenDialogue tours with architects from Grimshaw Architects will be offered throughout the site’s Open Access hours; tours of the Panorama will take place at 1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m.

10. The Studio Museum in Harlem

The Studio Museum in Harlem, founded in 1968 by a collective of artists, activists and philanthropists, is a hub for work inspired by black culture, as well as a link for artists of African descent. “Studio,” in its name, refers to the Artist-in-Residence program, which has served over 100 emerging artists since its establishment. The Studio Museum recently extended out into the city with its inHarlem exhibit, outdoor art installations in four Harlem parks.

SAT AND SUN TOUR INFO: Thematic tours and workshops, will take place during OHNY Weekend. Tours will depart from the lobby at 2:00 p.m., 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. on both days.

Most ARTNOIR: City of Cultural Exchange sites are Open Access and may be visited free-of- charge on a drop-in basis. Days and tour times vary. For more information, visit OHNY.

Next, check out 10 Must-Visit NYC Sites to Check Out For OHNY Weekend 2016 Where You Won’t Need Reservations.