Legends and Landmarks of East Harlem
For Black History Month, we at Ascendant wish to acknowledge the powerful Black American figures who have shaped this country. The communities that we serve, East and Central Harlem, continue to benefit from the magnitudinal impact that these individuals have made, long after they have left us. We recently lost a beloved champion of our community, Cicely Tyson. She, along with countless other Black Americans in Harlem, helped forge creative and kinetic identities that were felt throughout the country and the world. We are humbled and proud to be based in Harlem, and we seek to honor the legacy of Ms. Tyson and other Black American leaders by furthering their efforts to build up our community.
Remembering Cicely Tyson (1924-2021)
Cicely Tyson, the beloved daughter of East Harlem, passed away last month at the age of 96. She was an American icon and award-winning actor who became a model for portraying strong Black women in her seven decades on the screen and stage. She was also an East Harlem native who took great pride in the neighborhood that helped raise her.
A lifelong friend of Tyson, Rev. Al Sharpton remembers her Harlem pride: “She would not let you talk about Harlem in a negative.”
“She did not leave Harlem to go mainstream. She made mainstream come and celebrate Harlem … and her grace and her presence spoke for itself.”
Ascendant is proud to own her childhood home at 178 East 101st Street, offering East Harlem ten affordable apartments within the 110 year old structure. We are currently working with local officials and community members to co-name East 101 Street from Lexington to Third Ave as Cicely Tyson Way and to officially landmark the building with the NYC Landmarks Preservation Committee. We are thrilled at the opportunity to celebrate her life and passion for East Harlem.
Landmarks of Black History
This month, landmark victories and preservation alerts center on the lives of important Black Americans who changed the face of history.
857 Riverside Drive
Threat of Demolition
Built in 1851, the Greek Revival-Italianate house was once owned by abolitionist Dennis Harris, a known member of the Underground Railroad. The current owner is trying to demolish the building and replace it with a 13-story building. Learn More
Historic Women’s Pavilion at Harlem Hospital
Threat of Demolition
The city plans to tear down the Women’s Pavilion built in 1935 that served as the first training ground for African American physicians and nurses in the city. It famously cared for Rev. Martin Luther Jr. in 1958 after a Harlem woman stabbed him in the chest. The Nurse’s Residence, built in 1919 was also targeted for preservation by the community, but demolition started in December 2020 (some say illegally).
Dorrance Brooks Historic District
Calendared as a proposed Historic District
Dorrance Brooks Square honors Dorrance Brooks, a native of Harlem, the son of a Civil War veteran, and an African American soldier who died in France shortly before the end of World War I. The Dorrance Brooks Square Historic District was calendared on February 2, 2021 and will be subject to a Landmarks Preservation Commission hearing to obtain official landmark status. Learn More
Harriet and Thomas Truesdell House
Designated as an Individual Landmark
After 13 years of grassroots efforts, 227 Duffield Street was designated an individual landmark by the Landmarks Preservation Commission this month. The Truesdell House was built around 1847 as Greek-Revival row house. Harriet and Thomas Truesdell were part of the abolitionist movement and their home was a believed stop on the Underground Railroad.
Harlem Fire Watchtower at Marcus Garvey Park
The restoration project, overseen by Landmark East Harlem board member Connie Lee, has been given the “Excellence in Historic Structure Rehabilitation” award from the 2020 New York State Historic Preservation Awards. Read the official press release here.
Built in 1857, the noteworthy history of the tower, along with amazing preservation efforts spanning decades, show how community stewardship and placemaking can culminate in a win for preservationists and a welcoming space for the neighborhood to enjoy.
Explore the Residences of Harlem Legends
Take a tour through the streets of Harlem’s past. Weave your way (virtually) past the homes of W.E.B. Dubois, Duke Ellington, Cicely Tyson, Langston Hughes, and scores more! This Google map (started by an anonymous user) also highlights historic public sites, music and movie clips, and panoramic movies and panoramic scenes. Click here to get started!