History & Culture
Even though it was a village under the Dutch, the history of Harlem as we know it today begins in the 19th century. In 1880, after it was connected to the rest of Manhattan by the New York Elevated Railroad, developers began erecting block after block of rowhouses and apartment buildings. As it turns out, they built too many, and after a real estate crash in 1904, they decided to sell and rent to African-Americans. A result of Harlem’s becoming a magnet for African-Americans was the Harlem Renaissance, a cultural flowering led by writers like Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston and musicians including Louis Armstrong, Bessie Smith, and Cab Calloway. Institutions from the Studio Museum to the Apollo Theater keep the spirit of that period alive. In the past few decades, public and private investments have resulted in a new blossoming of interest in the area.