Originally founded as a Dutch village in the 17th century, Harlem is now one of New York City’s most prominent neighborhoods, sitting at the northern end of Manhattan. Since the 1920s, it has served as a major residential and cultural center for African Americans who moved to cities in the North, Midwest, and West during The Great Migration. Today, cultural revolutions and economic booms have transformed this former agricultural town into a rapidly growing city destination.
From major periods like the Harlem Renaissance to the neighborhood’s significance during the Civil Rights Movement, Harlem offers years of rich history and plenty of interesting sites to visit. Today, as the neighborhood’s economic growth persists, commercial businesses continue to move in and thrive.
Here are 25 must-visit spots you can find in Harlem:
Corn Exchange Building
Designed by the architectural firm, Lamb & Rich, the Corn Exchange Building was built in 1883-1884, when Harlem was still only a suburb. The Mount Morris Bank and Safe Deposit Company were the occupants of the main floors, while the upper floors were made up of luxury apartments. The Mount Morris Bank soon became a branch of the Corn Exchange Bank, giving the building its name.
By 1972, the building was vacated to the city, and was eventually deemed a New York City landmark in 1993. A 2009 fire, which forced the top four floors to be demolished, was a main factor in the decision to renovate the building. Today, it’s still a site to behold in Harlem.
Mount Olivet Baptist Church
It is a little known fact that Harlem was once a huge Jewish settlement — at one time, being the third largest behind the Lower East Side and Warsaw.
The Mount Olivet Baptist Church is just one of the historical sites where Harlem’s heavily Jewish background is visible. The Old Testament verse: “Jehovah is in his holy temple; be silent, before him, before all the earth,” is inscribed on the marble pediment leading to the baptismal pool.
The church was initially built as a synagogue and was eventually an important stop in the Civil Rights Movement.
Many prominent figures have been chosen to speak at the church, including Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe.
Alexander Hamilton was one of the country’s most influential founding fathers and he spent a significant amount of time in New York City. As such, he commissioned architect John McComb Jr. to design a him a country home on 32-acres of land in Harlem. The building was completed only two years before his death in 1804.
The Grange has since been relocated multiple times and is currently open to the public at its current location on 409 W 141st Street in St. Nicholas Park.
The home is listed as a U.S. National Memorial, a U.S. National Historic Landmark, and is on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.
369th Regiment Armory
The 369th Regiment Armory was built in 1933 for the regiment’s outstanding war valor. The unit is popularly known as the “Harlem Hell Fighters,” and was the country’s first African-American regiment to fight in World War I, albeit under French command due to America’s segregation policies.
The armory, designed by Tachau & Vought, sits at 142nd Street and Fifth Avenue. It consists of two buildings: an Art Deco style administration building and a medieval-inspired drill shed that were both constructed with brick.