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Harlem is located in Upper Manhattan, often referred to as Uptown by locals. It stretches from the East River in the east, to the Hudson River to the west; and between 155th Street in the north, with an uneven border along the south that runs along either 96th Street east of Fifth Avenue or 110th Street west of Fifth Avenue. Originally a Dutch village, formally organized in 1658, it is named after the city of Haarlem in the Netherlands. Harlem's history has been defined by a series of economic boom-and-bust cycles, with significant population shifts accompanying each cycle.

Harlem is chain of three large linear parks — Morningside Park, St. Nicholas Park and Jackie Robinson Park —situated on steeply rising banks and form most of the district's western boundary.

In the 1920s and 1930s, Central and West Harlem was the focus of the "Harlem Renaissance", an outpouring of artistic work without precedent in the American black community. Harlem is also well remembered for numerous actors and theater companies, including the New Heritage Repertory Theater, National Black Theater, Lafayette Players, Harlem Suitcase Theater, The Negro Playwrights, and the American Negro Theater.

The Apollo Theater opened on 125th Street on January 26, 1934, in a former burlesque house. The Savoy Ballroom, on Lenox Avenue, was a renowned venue for swing dancing, and was immortalized in a popular song of the era, "Stompin' At The Savoy". In the 1920s and 1930s, between Lenox and Seventh Avenues in central Harlem, over 125 entertainment places operated, including speakeasies, cellars, lounges, cafes, taverns, supper clubs, rib joints, theaters, dance halls, and bars and grills.

From 1965 until 2007, the community was home to the Harlem Boys Choir, a famous touring choir and education program.. The Girls Choir of Harlem was founded in 1989, and closed with the Boys Choir.

Arthur Mitchell, a former dancer with the New York City Ballet, established Dance Theatre of Harlem as a school and company of classical ballet and theater training in the late 1960s. The company has toured nationally and internationally. Generations of theater artists have gotten a start at the school.

Manhattan's contributions to hip-hop stems largely from artists with Harlem roots such as Big L, Kurtis Blow and Immortal Technique. Harlem is also the birthplace of popular hip-hop dances such as the Harlem shake, toe wop, and Chicken Noodle Soup.

During the late 1980s and early '90s, Harlem underwent another renaissance—perhaps more a Harlem Revival than anything else—when the city removed long-unused trolley tracks, laid new water mains and sewers, installed new sidewalks, curbs, traffic lights, street lights, and planted trees along its central shopping district, West 125th Street. This revival continues today with new dining and shopping hotspots constantly opening.

Harlem has also been very important to the charter schools movement in Manhattan

Subway routes include: IRT Lenox Avenue Line (2 3 trains), IRT Broadway – Seventh Avenue Line (1 train), IRT Lexington Avenue Line (4 5 6 trains) at 125th Street. IND Eighth Avenue Line (A B C D trains), IND Concourse Line (B D trains at 155th Street)

Bus routes include: M1, M2, M3, M4, M5, M7, M10, M11, M15, M15 SBS, M35, M60 SBS, M100, M101, M102, M103, M104, and M116 (Manhattan buses). And Bx6 Bx15, Bx19, and Bx33 (Bronx buses).

Points of Interest
  • Abyssinian Baptist Church
  • Apollo theatre
  • The New York College of Podiatric Medicine, 
  • City College of New York,
  • Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine
  • Studio Museum in Harlem
  • Gatehouse Theatre