Tuesday, September 28, 2010

☞ WALK: South Harlem

We have heard the saying "below 125th Street" many times by mid 2000 but when did the name South Harlem come into play recently? The Central Harlem southern neighborhood is bound by Morningside Avenue at the westside, 5th Avenue on the east and 110th Street at the border of Central Park North. So the big question is who came up with the region's moniker of South Harlem or its shorten form SoHa? The condo building SoHa 118, which was constructed in 2007, was named in relation to its location and the above map of hot spots in South Harlem was also published that year: LINK.

Probably the oldest existing establishment with the label is Max SoHa at Amsterdam and 123rd Street so we looked for more information on when the restaurant actually opened. A New York Times article featuring the debut of the restaurant back in 2001 explains that the owner chose the name because of its location in South Harlem or SoHa for short: LINK. We are not sure if the restaurant was first to come up with the term but if one looks at the neighborhood maps, the eatery's location is actually a hair on the Manhattanville side of "below 125th Street.": LINK


  1. In the late 90's/early 00's there was a bar on 109th and Amsterdam called Soha. It is now Village Pourhouse.

  2. The term has been around way longer than that. Searching the NY Times archive for the oldest mentions of "South Harlem"...

    - A bunch of early references to the "South Harlem Methodist Episcopal Church" at 110th and 2nd. An article from November 13, 1871 notes its one year anniversary.

    - Starting in 1913, lots of references to the "South Harlem Neighborhood Association," which a 1914 letter says is bounded by 90th, 116th, 5th Ave, and the East River. First reference is a 1913 letter published from "I.M. Beard, Chairman of Parks and Playground Committee of the South Harlem Neighborhood Association." He mentions Jewish and Italian children being "systematically warned away" by Irish gangs at "Yorkville Playground" at 101st b/t 2nd and 3rd. Also interesting that it's called Yorkville Playground despite being on 101st St.. and that that block no longer exists due to the George Washington Houses.

    - Stuff about Vito Marcantonio, the Italian Harlem socialist congressman.

    - Articles about the housing projects being built in what is, again, today considered the lower part of East Harlem in the 50s and 60s.

    So I'd say historically "South Harlem" meant the lower reaches of East Harlem. Doesn't look like there are many references to anything west of 5th Ave (although with a lot it's hard to tell) until a 1972 article about Louis Farrakhan at 116 and Lenox.