Vertner Tandy, architect

Vertner Woodson Tandy (1885 – 1949) was an American architect. He was the first African American registered architect in New York State. He initially attended Tuskegee Institute studying architectural drawing. In 1907 he graduated from Cornell University with a degree in architecture. Tandy also holds the distinction of being the first African American to pass the military commissioning examination and was commissioned First Lieutenant in the 15th Infantry of the New York State National Guard. He designed buildings for  Harlem millionairess Madam C. J. Walker,  St. Philip’s Episcopal Church at 204 West 134th Street in NYC, and the Ivey Delph Apartments, designed in 1948, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2005.… Read More

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Carrie McHenry Thomas, Parks Department

Carrie McHenry Thomas (1913 – 2013) was the first African-American to work at the Arsenal in Central Park with the New York City Parks Department. She was recruited in 1937 by Stuart Constable, the Director of Parks under Robert Moses. She worked in Room 100, which was then the Capital Projects division for Parks. She was one of three women working there, and started out as a Contract and Specification Writer. She worked in the Capital Projects division until 1978. She also advocated for the hiring of other African-Americans in the park department including engineers and architects. Ms. Thomas worked… Read More

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William Roche, Renaissance Ballroom

William Roche was an African American Real Estate Agent that helped build the Renaissance Ballroom in Harlem. Constructed in 1921, the combination ballroom, casino and movie theatre was touted as the first non-segregated institution of its kind. Mr. Roche (Roach) was an immigrant from Montserrat who became a major player in uptown real estate and a member of Marcus Garvey’s UNIA. He owned a house cleaning business, but bought the northeast corner of 137th Street and Seventh Avenue, now known as Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard. With Joseph H. Sweeney and Cleophus Charity, they built the Renaissance Theater there in 1921. They expanded… Read More

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Louis Blumstein, department store owner

In 1885 Louis Blumstein arrived in the United States from Germany. He worked as a street peddler and in 1894 opened a store on Hudson Street. In 1898 he moved to West 125th Street between Seventh and Eighth Avenues, already a major regional shopping center. Mr. Blumstein died in the 1920s and his family took over the store. The family tore down the store after his death and built a 5 story building. It was a beautiful $1 million art deco building, second largest on 125th street after the Hotel Teresa and completed in 1923.  They were the largest department… Read More

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Holcombe Rucker, activist, basketball tournament founder

Holcombe Rucker (March 2, 1926 – March 20, 1965) was a playground director in Harlem for the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation from 1948 to 1964. He founded the New York City pro-am basketball tournament, that still bears his name and is the namesake of a world-famous basketball court in Harlem. Rucker grew up in Manhattan and  started the tournament in 1950 at a playground on 7th Avenue between 128th and 129th streets. He insisted that education be a fundamental part of the Rucker League, in keeping with its motto — “Each one, teach one.” Through his… Read More

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Elmo Hope, pianist, jazz pioneer

Elmo Hope was born on June 27, 1923, in New York City. His parents were immigrants from the Caribbean and had several children. Elmo began playing the piano aged seven. He had classical music lessons as a child, and won solo piano recital contests from 1938. Fellow pianist Bud Powell was a childhood friend; together, they played and listened to jazz and classical music. Hope attended Benjamin Franklin High School, which was known for its music program. He developed an excellent understanding of harmony, and composed jazz and classical pieces at school. At the age of 17, Hope was shot… Read More

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Hip Hop Hall of Fame coming to Harlem

New York City is credited with being the birthplace of Hip Hop music. Therefore, it’s only fitting that the Hip Hop Hall of Fame and Museum will be located right here in the Big Apple. The nonprofit group behind the project announced this week that it will build the museum on 125th Street in Harlem. The goal is to open phase one of the future museum by February 2018. The goal of the museum is to preserve, archive and showcase hip-hop music and culture over the 40 years since the art form began. It will include a gallery, ground floor cafe… Read More

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