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Projects & Proposals > Manhattan > Virtual Tour of Malcolm X Boulevard Printer Friendly Version
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  Archived Content

This page describes Malcolm X Boulevard as it appeared in 2001.  The tour was developed as part of the Malcolm X Boulevard Streetscape Enhancement Project.  These pages are no longer being updated.


Welcome to Malcolm X Boulevard in the heart of Harlem! This online virtual tour highlights the landmarks of Harlem and is available in both an interactive Flash form as well as printable text form. Select either the Interactive Flash or Printable Text button below to begin.

Begin Interactive Flash Tour (in new window)           Begin Printable Text Tour

This tour was developed by the Department of City Planning as part of its Malcolm X Boulevard Streetscape Enhancement Project. The project, which extends from West 110th to West 147th Street, seeks to complement the ongoing capital improvements for Malcolm X Boulevard and take advantage of the growing tourist interest in Harlem. The project proposes a program of streetscape and pedestrian space improvements, including new pedestrian lighting, new sidewalk and median landscaping and the provision of pedestrian amenities, such as seating and pergolas. The Department has been working with Cityscape Institute, the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone, the New York City Department of Transportation, and the Department of Design and Construction, and has received implementation funds totaling $1.2 million through the federal TEA21 Enhancement Funding program for the proposed pedestrian lighting improvements.

As one element of the project, the Department developed this guided tour of the boulevard and neighboring blocks. The tour provides an overview of local area history, and highlights architecturally significant and landmarked buildings, noteworthy cultural and ecclesiastical institutions and other points of interest. A listing of former famous jazz clubs, such as the Cotton Club and Savoy Ballroom, is also provided. Envisioned as an information resource for residents and visitors, the tour is also available in printable text format for use as a hand-held guide for a self-guided walking tour along the boulevard.

How to Get Around:
Harlem is well-served by public transportation. Take either the Number 2 or 3 subway lines to West 110th Street station, or the M2, M3, M4, or M18 buses and get off at Malcolm X Boulevard and Central Park North. The tour begins at Malcolm X Boulevard and Central Park North/West 110th Street.

A Brief History of Malcolm X Boulevard Neighborhood:
First known as Sixth Avenue, the portion of the Boulevard above Central Park from West 110th Street/Central Park North to 147th was named Lenox Avenue in 1887 after a millionaire philanthropist and book-collector. James Lenox donated his private collection as part of the founding material of the New York Public Library. In the late 1980's, the street was again renamed, this time to honor the slain civil rights leader.

Until the mid-19th century, Harlem was a sparsely settled agricultural area. Changing from farmland to a recreational area for New Yorkers, the area was subdivided into lots primed for residential development beginning in the 1850's-60's. The arrival of elevated subway trains (known as the "El") in 1872 began the transformation of Harlem into a suburb for the rapidly growing city. Malcolm X Boulevard runs through five blocks of the Mount Morris Park Historic District. This district features buildings representative of architecture styles spanning a period of more than four decades. Until the end of the 19th century, Mount Morris Park was home to a wealthy Protestant community that supported the many churches on the avenue. Developers, anticipating the arrival of the east side subway line, began building churches, public buildings and elegant speculative houses in the area. Notable New York developers William B. Astor, Oscar Hammerstein, Henry Morgenthau and Oswald Ottendorfer engaged the prominent architects of the day, including Arnold W. Brunner, Hugo Lamb of the firm of Lamb & Rich, George F. Pelham, William A. Potter, J. R. Thomas, Thom & Wilson and James E. Ware. These well-preserved structures, designed in such architectural styles as Romanesque Revival, the French Neo-Grec, and Queen Anne, rival those found on prestigious Fifth and Park Avenues.

In the late 19th century, German and Eastern European Jews moved into the area. These residents built new synagogues and converted several churches for their religious services. During the 1920's, the boulevard became a center for a growing African-American community and the synagogues once again were used as churches. Most notable is the former Temple Israel of Harlem at Malcolm X Blvd. and West 120th Street, the present-day Mount Olivet Church.

The 1930's brought West Indian and Caribbean immigrants to the area, a trend that continues today and is reflected in the restaurants in the neighborhood. Today one sees the growing influence of African immigrants.

The building boom of the 1970's resulted in the construction of new housing projects in Harlem and Malcolm X Blvd. was included in the frenzy. Many low-rise residential buildings from the early 20th century were replaced by superblock developments. Also, lost in that spurt of "urban renewal" were many famous jazz clubs. This guide leads you to their former sites, and also introduces you to those that were spared the fate of "modern improvements."

One of the broadest streets in Manhattan with sidewalks that measure thirty-five feet in width, Malcolm X Boulevard is primarily residential. Convenient public transportation, easy access to New York airports, and recent real estate developments have seen an increase in its function as a main commercial and transportation strip. The future of Harlem in general and Malcolm X Blvd. in particular is looking bright as both investors in the public and private sectors recognize it as the next new place for expansion and development. As we enter the new millennium, the face of Harlem seems destined to change once again.

Have a great tour!

Begin Interactive Flash Tour (in new window)           Begin Printable Text Tour


  • Anderson, Jervis, This Was Harlem, New York, Farrar, Strauss Giroux 1982
  • Dolkart, Andrew S. and Gretchen S. Sorin, Touring Historic Harlem: Four Walks in Northern Manhattan, New York: New York Landmarks Conservancy, 1997
  • Harris, M.A. "Spike," A Negro History Tour of Manhattan, New York, Greenwood Publications, 1968
  • Rovere, Vicki, Where To Go: A Guide to Manhattan's Toilets, New York, Vicki Rovere, Publisher, 1991
  • Willensky, Elliot and Norval White, AIA Guide to New York City, Third Edition, San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1988

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