Sugar Hill, Manhattan (History)

neighborhoods_manhttan_sugar_hill_300x300Sugar Hill is a United States historic district in the northern part of the Hamilton Heights section of the Harlemneighborhood of Manhattan, New York City. It is roughly 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 city districts were designated between 2000 and 2002, and 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 Americansto 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 and Roy Wilkins.

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

If you are white and are reading this vignette, 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 theWalter Whites, where colored families send their babies to private kindergartens and their youngsters toEthical 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, among other well-known names.