Over the past several years, the press has heralded Harlems Second Renaissance, this one with more of an economic emphasis.


With all kinds of development projects underway,

Central Harlem - from about 110th Street to 155th Street, between St. Nicholas and Fifth avenues - is dispelling its reputation as a symbol of declining urban America. Whats more, the revitalized area has become a kind of sleeper hit among outsiders--rediscovered first by visitors (especially Europeans and Japanese) and now by New Yorkers who head up on weekends to its music clubs, something few wouldve even considered just a few years ago.



Still, since distances between Harlems attractions are long and there are some unsafe areas between them, it can be a good idea to join a group tour, especially if its your first time in New York.

Harlem has always had more than its share of historic treasures. 

astorrowhouses

To find them, pay a call on the Astor Row Houses, 130th Street between Fifth and Lenox avenues, a fabulous series of 28 redbrick town houses built in the 1880s and graced with wooden porches, generous yards, and ornamental ironwork. Equally impressive is Strivers Row, West 138th and 139th streets, between Adam Clayton Powell Jr. and Frederick Douglass boulevards, a group of 130 houses built in 1891 by developer David H. King Jr., whod already developed the base of the Statue of Liberty and the original Madison Square Garden. On the north side of 139th Street are neo-Italian Renaissance residences by McKim, Mead White, while across the street are Georgian-inspired homes. Once the original white owners had moved out, these lovely houses attracted the cream of the Harlem population, the "strivers" (hence the name) like Eubie Blake and W. C. Handy.

Handsome brownstones, limestone town houses, and row houses are sprinkled atop Sugar Hill, 145th to 155th streets, between St. Nicholas and Edgecombe avenues, named for the "sweet life" enjoyed by its residents. In the early 20th century, such prominent blacks as W. E. B. DuBois, Thurgood Marshall, and Roy Wilkins lived in the now-landmarked building at 409 Edgecombe Ave.
Besides its bounty of architectural wealth, Harlem has several important cultural institutions. 

The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, 515 Malcolm X Blvd., between 135th and 136th streets (tel. 212/491-2200; www.nypl.org), a research branch of the New York Public Library, hosts changing exhibits related to black culture.