On June 15, 2021 the NYC 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.
And now the official street signs have gone up as well. Timed to coincide with Black History Month, the city unveiled its signature brown historic district markers last week in six locations across the neighborhood. Each panel has a description on one side and a map on the other.
For those unfamiliar with Harlem's newest historic district and its preservation, here are some key details:
• It is named after Dorrance Brooks (1893-1918), a Black soldier who died while serving in the segregated military during World War I. He was a member of the 369th Infantry Regiment, better known as the Harlem Hellfighters.
• The Dorrance Brooks Square Historic District encompasses two huge swaths of Central Harlem, stretching from W 135th to W 140th Streets between Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard and St. Nicholas Avenue (the square in the district's name is on its southwestern edge).
• 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. (Looking to grab a bite there? Try the popular Caribbean spot The Edge.)
• The district was home to many notable African American thinkers, artists, actors and doctors during the Harlem Renaissance (1920s-1940s), including intellectual W.E.B. DuBois, performer Ethel Waters and sculptor Augusta Savage.
• 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.