The history of Harlem, New York

The famed Apollo Theater in Harlem, New York, welcomed such giant singers as Stevie Wonder, Diane Warwick, Aretha Franklin, Dizzy Gellespie, Duke Ellington and ray Charles, on top of a host of comedians and other stage events. — Tarmo Hannula/Register-Pajaronian

(Editor’s Note: This is part two of a multi-part travel series on New York. The previous entry can be found in the April 12 edition of the Register-Pajaronian.)

On the third day of the trip my wife Sarah and I took recently to New York City, we left our hotel in the Financial District and caught the subway up to 125th Street to visit Harlem. The moment we hit the streets we got on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and walked east toward the East River. The streets were packed with all kinds of vendors, which added to the color and flair of the area.

One spot we wanted to see was the world famous Apollo Theater on 125th Avenue. It was there, a noted venue for African American performers, that hundreds of big name singers, comedians and other stage acts brought their talent over the years. Giant names like Count Basie, Diane Warwick, Duke Ellington, Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin, Billie Holiday, Stevie Wonder, and Dizzy Gillespie, to name only a few, performed here. Originally opened in 1914 to whites only, it eventually opened its doors to black patrons in 1934.

We eventually turned south and walked the avenues taking in the fascinating rows of brownstone homes with their fancy wrought iron rails lining the door stoops. We flanked the edge of Central Park and watched people walking their dogs, kids playing and seniors flaked out on benches along Jackie Onasis Reservoir.

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Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village is mobbed with people as the sun warms up the day. — Tarmo Hannula/Register-Pajaronian

We came upon the Museum of the City of New York and wandered the two-story building, taking in the bounty of info, images and displays about how the city was founded. In the early 1600s the Dutch began trading with the native people of the land and eventually built up into the largest port on the east coast. It wasn’t until the 1800s that the seaport mushroomed into a world hub, becoming the world’s second largest metropolis after London.

Though we were worn out we continued our trek over to Madison Avenue and spotted the Squadron A Armory Ruins between 94th and 95th streets. Built of red bricks, it opened in 1895 and served various squadrons, Calvary, and troops and was also a place where weapons and ammunition were stored.

Further along Madison Avenue we found a fast food Indian restaurant and relished the quick and tasty meal they offered.

Back on 5th Avenue we continued south as far as the Guggenheim Museum at 89th Street at 5th Avenue. The place was way too crowded for us so we just took in the sights of the wild looking structure that was designed by famed architect, Frank Lloyd Wright.

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The Armory on Fifth Avenue in New York City. — Tarmo Hannula/Register-Pajaronian

With our feet sore and our legs giving out, we hailed a taxi and worked our way to Washington Square Park and parked ourselves on a bench to watch the flurry of people relishing the warmth of the sun. It was freezing cold the first few days we were in the big city so the sun was a tremendous bonus as we sank into that bench.

After a bit we continued walking and found the famed Bleecker Street. It was here, a major center for American bohemia, that scores of big names musicians, comedians and poets got their names raised up the flagpole — folks like Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell and Simon and Garfunkel garnered fame. Famous nightspots bloomed here as well, places like The Bitter End, Café Au Go Go, and the Village Gate. The famous playwright, James Agee, lived here at 172 Bleecker St. above Café Español. The actor Robert De Niro grew up on Bleecker Street.

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In the next part of this series we walk across the Brooklyn Bridge and explore Brooklyn. The build up for an incredible wedding of our son on a boat beneath the Statue of Liberty.

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