Wednesday, March 11, 2009

☞ WALK: Hamilton Heights

The Hamilton Heights neighborhood was named after Alexander Hamilton for he had an estate within this northern region of Manhattan during the last couple of years of his life. Hamilton's estate, Hamilton Grange, is a historic landmark and still lies within the heights. Tree lined streets with blocks of turn of the century brownstone represent a large stock in this area of Harlem. Another distinct characteristic of the regions brownstones can be found in the gabled roof construction which alludes more to the architecture found in Amsterdam. The bounderies of Hamilton Heights begin at 135th street to the south, 155th street to the north, the Hudson river to the west and St. Nicholas avenue to the east. Most of the housing stock tranformed from farmland estates to brownstones and flats once the subway system was built at the turn of the century. The original community of white middle class was replaced by mostly African Americans by the 1930's and by the mid 1980's the majority shifted to a large hispanic community. As of 2005, fleeing the exorbitant cost of living downtown, many artist and young professionals of all backgrounds are rediscovering the beauty of living in this neighborhood. Take the B, C, D train to 145th street.


  1. I beg to differ a little bit in regards to the ethnic make-up of Hamilton Heights as you have described.

    While there was a large amount of African Americans in the '30's the areas had a large variety of racial and ethnic groups.

    When my mom's family grew up in the area, there were a large Irish population along with Russians, Czechoslovakian, Yugoslavian, French, German and a lot of West Indian and southern African Americans. A large portion of the European population were immigrants.

    I grew up in the area in the '60's.During this time, there was still a strong European presence. I had a best friend who was born in France, I was taught ballet by a Polish emigre and and was treated to fresh warm homemade cornbread by a wonderful super's wife from down south. Eventually things changed.

    There was still some of the European immigrants but most moved to Washington Heights and other areas.

    There were always an Hispanic presence in the area, mostly arriving in the '40's onward.They were mostly Puerto Rican,Cuban and some Spanish.

    A greater influx of Hispanics came in the late '70's and early '80's with the arrival of Dominicans.

    You are right that many young artist and professionals are rediscovering the neighborhood but I saw the beginnings of that earlier than 2005. I thought that it began in the late '90's.

    My mom grew up in this neighborhood and remembers wealthy families who employed maids. They wore uniforms and little white caps. She said they used to push their little charges in perambulators up and down Riverside Drive which was considered to be a very tony address.

    I personally saw the downward spiral that the neighborhood went into after the riots in the '60's and the crack wars of the '80's.

    I never thought that we would be seeing what appears to be a revival.

    I'm so glad that things are turning around, but I am concerned that the long term residents may not share in the fruits of the restoration.

    Please lets not forget the folks who stuck it out here through the good and the bad.

  2. By the way Ulysses, I can't tell you how much I love you and the Harlem Bespoke site!

    I love that you love Harlem's architecture. I have always loved Harlem's buildings and would always talk about it to whomever would listen.

    Most people did not believe that such beautiful apartments and edifices existed in Harlem. I could see the skepticism in their face whenever I would speak about it.

    While I am not pleased that I was met with such skepticism, I am dammed happy that I have been vindicated by your site and postings.

    I await your emails daily and I am so pleased that you not only show the areas I loved and grew up in but also show me small gems that I missed.

    Please stick around--always. It is needed and necessary!