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Sugar Hill Historic District
718-730 St. Nicholas Avenue.jpg
row houses at 718-730 St. Nicholas Avenue (2014)
Location Roughly bounded by W. 155th St., 145th St., Edgecombe Ave. and Amsterdam Ave.
Manhattan, New York City
Area 75 acres (30 ha)
Built 1883-1930
Architect Richard S. Rosenstock, Arthur Bates Jennings, Frederick P. Dinkelberg, Henri Fouchaux, Theodore Minot Clark, Neville & Bagge, Schwartz & Gross, George F. Pelham, Horace Ginsbern, C. P. H. Gilbert, Clarence True, John P. Leo, Samuel B. Reed, William Grinnell, William Schickel et al.
Architectural style Queen Anne, Romanesque Revival, Renaissance Revival, Beaux-Arts, Neoclassical, Colonial Revival, Gothic Revival, neo-Grec, etc.
NRHP reference No. 02000360
Quick facts for kids
Significant dates
Added to NRHP April 11, 2002

Sugar Hill is a National Historic District in the Harlem and Hamilton Heights neighborhoods of Manhattan, New York City, bounded by West 155th Street to the north, West 145th Street to the south, Edgecombe Avenue to the east, and Amsterdam Avenue to the west. The equivalent New York City Historic Districts are:

  • Hamilton Heights/Sugar Hill Historic District and Extension: roughly West 145th to West 150th Street, Edgecombe Avenue to between Convent and Amsterdam Avenues
  • Hamilton Heights/Sugar Hill Northeast Historic District: roughly West 151st to West 155th Street, west of St. Nicholas Avenue to between Convent and Amsterdam Avenues
  • Hamilton Heights/Sugar Hill Northwest Historic District: roughly West 151st to West 155th Street, east of St. Nicholas Avenue to Edgecombe Avenue

The Federal district was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2002. The Federal district has 414 contributing buildings, two contributing sites, three contributing structures, and one contributing object.

History

Sugar Hill got its name in the 1920s when the neighborhood became a popular place for wealthy African Americans to live during the Harlem Renaissance. Reflective of the "sweet life" there, Sugar Hill featured rowhouses in which lived such prominent African Americans as W. E. B. Du Bois, Thurgood Marshall, Adam Clayton Powell Jr., Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, Walter Francis White, Roy Wilkins and Afro-Puerto Rican Arturo Schomburg.

Langston Hughes wrote about the relative affluence of the neighborhood in his essay "Down Under in Harlem" published in The New Republic in 1944:

Don't take it for granted that all Harlem is a slum. It isn't. There are big apartment houses up on the hill, Sugar Hill, and up by City College -- nice high-rent-houses with elevators and doormen, where Canada Lee lives, and W. C. Handy, and the George S. Schuylers, and the Walter Whites, where colored families send their babies to private kindergartens and their youngsters to Ethical Culture School.

Terry Mulligan's 2012 memoir "Sugar Hill, Where the Sun Rose Over Harlem" is a chronicle of the writer's experiences growing up in the 1950s and '60s in the neighborhood, where her neighbors included future United States Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, early rock n' roll legend Frankie Lymon, and New York baseball great Willie Mays.

Notable buildings

Among the many notable buildings in the Sugar Hill area are:

  • Nicholas C. and Agnes Benziger House, 345 Edgecombe Avenue (William Schickel, 1890–91) - has also been used as a hospital, nursery and housing for the homeless
  • James A. and Ruth M. Bailey House, 10 St. Nicholas Place (Samuel B. Reed, 1886–88) - A Romanesque Revival residence built for James A. Bailey of the Barnum & Bailey Circus
  • 14 and 16 St. Nicholas Place (William Grinnell, 1883–84) - Queen Anne style detached frame houses clad in wood shingles
  • Fink House, 8 St. Nicholas Place (Richard S. Rosenstock, 1885) - Queen Anne style house, would later be combined with...
  • Baiter House, 6 St. Nicholas Place (Theodore G. Stein, 1893–94) - ...and used as a sanitarium, a hospital, a hotel, and a group home
  • 713-721 St. Nicholas Avenue (Hugh M. Reynolds, 1890–91) - Row houses in the Victorian Romanesque Revival style
  • 718-730 St. Nicholas Avenue (Arthur Bates Jennings, 1889–90) - A Romanesque Revival row
  • 729 and 731 St. Nicholas Avenue (Theodore Minot Clark, 1886-86) - two houses faced in Manhattan schist and shingles
  • 757-775 St. Nicholas Avenue (Frederick P. Dinkelberg, 1894–95) - A Renaissance Revival style row which is said to be "among the finest in the district."
  • 409 Edgecombe Avenue Apartments (Schwartz & Gross, 1916–17) - Originally the Colonial Parkway Apartments. Home to Babe Ruth as an infant, Aaron Douglas, Thurgood Marshall, W. E. B. Du Bois, and Marvel Cooke.
  • 555 Edgecombe Avenue. Several noted big band leaders lived here in the 1940s including Count Basie, Andy Kirk, Don Redman, Erskine Hawkins, Benny Carter and Cootie Williams.

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