Get to know Dorrance Brooks Square, Harlem's newest historic district

Updated: Oct 23, 2021


Renaissance Revival row houses line W 137th Street in the Dorrance Brooks Square Historic District
Renaissance Revival row houses line W 137th Street in the Dorrance Brooks Square Historic District.

On Tuesday the city's Landmarks Preservation Commission unanimously voted to designate the Dorrance Brooks Square Historic District in Harlem—the first in the city named after an African American.


For those unfamiliar with the new historic district and its preservation, here are some key details to know:


• The Dorrance Brooks Square Historic District encompasses two huge swaths of Central Harlem, stretching from W 136th to W 140th Streets between Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard and St. Nicholas Avenue (the square in the name is on the district's southwestern edge).



• It is named after Dorrance Brooks, a Black soldier who died while serving in the segregated military during World War I.


• The area is a residential neighborhood consisting mostly of Renaissance Revival- and Queen Anne-style row houses built in the late 19th and early 20th century.


• The district was home to many notable African American thinkers, artists, actors and doctors during the Harlem Renaissance (approx. 1915-1940), including intellectual W.E.B. DuBois, performer Ethel Waters and sculptor Augusta Savage.


The Gothic Revival doors of Mt. Calvary Church in the Dorrance Brooks Historic District.
The Gothic Revival doors of Mt. Calvary Church in the Dorrance Brooks Historic District.

• After a number of neighborhood groups sounded the alarm, the Landmarks Commission decided to include Mt. Calvary Church at 116 Edgecombe Avenue—bought by developers and until recently slated for demolition—within the boundaries of the new historic district.


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