The “sweet life” of Black cultural thought leaders living in this West Harlem neighborhood during the 1920s gave Sugar Hill its moniker. Today, the area continues to exude elegance and culture. From world-class artistic institutions to prized international cuisine, Sugar Hill has something for everyone living in or visiting the area. History buffs flock to sites within and around the neighborhood, which is a designated Historic District spanning from Harlem to Hamilton Heights. It also contains a Federal District listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2002.
Sugar Hill was home to figures like W.E.B. DuBois, Duke Ellington, Thurgood Marshall, and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. From its role as an upper-class neighborhood for affluent African Americans during the early 20th century to the proving grounds for some of the earliest hip hop icons, Sugar Hill has a rich cultural legacy still felt along its streets today. Two of those streets, St. Nicholas Avenue and St. Nicholas Place, house a number of mansions and brownstones with beautiful facades. From singers to literary legends, prominent government officials to groundbreaking naturalists, Sugar Hill has plenty of secrets and hidden gems to explore.
1. The Morris-Jumel Mansion is the oldest extant residence in Manhattan
For many New York history buffs, the Morris-Jumel mansion needs no introduction. The oldest extant residence in Manhattan, the structure dates back to 1765 and played a significant role in early New York City. The property served as a summer home for British colonel Roger Morris and his wife Mary Philipse. A significantly sized property at the time, the entire property stretched 135 acres across what is now known as Mount Morris. The mansion stands just north of Sugar Hill, rising above the Jumel Terrace Historic District west of the mansion. The mansion was also a key site during the nearby Battle of Harlem Heights.
Many may not know that a special colonial milestone resides on the property. Hearkening back to early wayfinding along the colonial-era Albany Post Road, this mile marker records “Mile 11” on the historic trail and is one of only five remaining in New York City. The home is reportedly haunted, with multiple television personalities and paranormal programs such as “Ghost Adventures” and the “Holzer Files” trying to uncover the mysteries of the mansion’s historic phantoms. One such haunt is wealthy former resident Eliza Jumel, a 19th-century real estate impresario who made the stately residence her home with her first husband Stephen Jumel before his death, after which she lived here with her second husband of one year Aaron Burr.