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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  These pages are no longer being updated.


11. The Mount Morris Park Historic District
Malcolm X Blvd. from 119th to 121st Streets
In 1971, this neighborhood was designated an Historic District by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, one of the earliest landmarked districts in the five boroughs. It encompasses a 16-block area in Central Harlem, going north from West 118th to West 124th Streets and west from Fifth Avenue to Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Boulevard (Seventh Avenue). The district includes a remarkable cross-section of late 19th- and early 20th-century residential and church architecture representing all of the various eclectic styles associated with the Gilded Age. "Doctors' Row" (West 122nd Street), Mount Morris Park West, and Malcolm X Boulevard demonstrate the remarkable survival of substantially unaltered 19th-century streetscapes, rare in most areas of Manhattan.

The rocky hill of Manhattan mica-schist that dominates Mount Morris Park was popular among Native American tribes as a look-out point from which one could see over the entire island. Dutch colonists who established the town of Nieuw Haarlem in 1658 called it Slang Berg, which translates to Snake Hill. During the War of Independence, the hill's strategic position near the mouth of the Harlem River led to a series of skirmishes between the patriots and the British. On September 4, 1839, a residential square named Mount Morris Square was established on just over 20 acres of the old Benson family land grant farm. Shortly thereafter, it became part of the New York City public park system as Mount Morris Park.

 

 

119th to 121st Street and Malcolm X Blvd.
photo of 119th to 121st street and malcolm x blvd.

Many New Yorkers came up to Mount Morris Park from the more congested areas of the city to enjoy country walks and picnics well into the late 1870's. The area also enjoyed a colorful history as an entertainment venue. The Benson farm was the site of the former Harlem Trotting Course, a race track extending from 120th and 134th Streets between Madison and Fifth Avenues.

The park was renamed Marcus Garvey Park in 1973, honoring the charismatic leader of the international Pan-African movement. Garvey (1887-1940) was spokesman and President of the short-lived nation known as the "Republic of Africa," and maintained his headquarters in Harlem.

To honor the rich heritage of the Historic District and of Harlem, the Mount Morris Park Community Improvement Association (MMPCIA) was formed in 1981. These concerned and committed residents of Harlem's elegant brownstone neighborhoods and proud members of its churches are striving to create a 21st Century Renaissance. They are involved in promoting sites such as the historic Apollo Theatre, the National Black Theatre, the Schomburg Library, the Studio Museum of Harlem, and the many fine soul food, African, and Caribbean restaurants in Central Harlem. They are the sponsors of an annual Historic Neighborhood House Tour (usually the second weekend in June), featuring historic brownstones and other landmarked buildings in the area for public view.

 

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