Courtesy of the Landmarks Preservation Commission
The Landmarks Preservation Commission on Tuesday voted to designate the Dorrance Brooks Square Historic District, an architecturally intact area of Harlem associated with notable Black Americans. The district is anchored by Dorrance Brooks Square, a small park named for a member of the Harlem Hellfighters who died in active combat during World War I. When it was dedicated by the city in 1925, the square became the first in New York City to honor a Black serviceman. The historic district designated on Tuesday is the first in the city to be named after an African American, according to the LPC.
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Photo courtesy of the Dorrance Brooks Property Owners and Residents Association
This post is part of a series by the Historic Districts Council, exploring the groups selected for their Six to Celebrate program, New York’s only targeted citywide list of preservation priorities.
By many accounts, Dorrance Brooks Square is considered the first public square named for a black soldier. The little Harlem park, just east of the larger St. Nicholas Park, was dedicated in 1925 to honor African-American infantryman Dorrance Brooks for his bravery during WWI. Prior to that, the area was very much associated with the Harlem Renaissance, home to jazz musician Lionel Hampton and sociologist and civil rights activist W.E.B. DuBois, among others. Later, it became a key location for social and political gatherings and speeches during the Civil Rights era. Today, the quaint neighborhood is home to an incredibly intact collection of late 19th-century rowhouses, built at the time for upper-middle-class professionals, as well as four culturally and architecturally significant churches.
For all these reasons, the Dorrance Brooks Property Owners and Residents Association is advocating for an official landmark designation of the Dorrance Brooks Square Historic District, which would run up Edgecombe Avenue between West 136th and 140th Streets. To give 6sqft more information on this history of this neighborhood, the Association has mapped out the six most significant sites.
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Dorrance Brooks Square Historic District, St. Marks United Methodist Church. Image courtesy of NY State Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Friday that the New York State Board for Historic Preservation has recommended adding 18 properties, resources, and districts to the State and National Registers of Historic Places. The new nominations include the Upper West Side home of author and civil rights activist James Baldwin, the Dorrance Brooks Square Historic District and the former 32nd Precinct Station House complex in Harlem, and the Fourth Avenue Methodist Episcopal Church in Sunset Park, Brooklyn in addition to 14 other nominated places throughout the state.
Find out how New York continues to recognize varied historic places