story and photos by Damali Snowe
The Harlem Landmark Guest House, located at 437 W. 147th between St. Nicholas Avenue and Convent Avenue is a standing tribute the beauty of Harlem and its history. A collective, whose members are African-American long-time residents of Harlem, owns this business.
Harlem Landmark Guest House is essentially a place for people to stay overnight. They are provided with a continental breakfast in the morning. It is also home to many events, serving as a cultural center. The difference between this experience and that of a hotel is: hotels are more established and impersonal. A guesthouse, however has more of a “home feeling” to it.
One of the goals of the collective that owns the brownstone is to promote Harlem as “a wonderful place.” Many visitors and residents of New York have a negative image of Harlem, not knowing the rich culture that resides here. The people at The Harlem Landmark want to change this and upgrade Harlem’s image by giving visitors the full Harlem experience. The Harlem Landmark is a part of the Harlem Chamber of Commerce, and works with tour companies, as well as radio stations, to help fulfill its purpose.
The brownstone took a year to restore, preserving the history it holds from a century ago, making it a museum in a sense. The building is decorated in, “Harlem Style” which is some African culture mixed in with Harlem’s history and culture. There are many historical pictures of Harlem figures, particularly musicians, lining the staircase and decorating the rooms. African masks, pictures, and paintings liven up the hallways and rooms as well. These fine pieces of art bring the brownstone alive, and the brownstone has become a wonderful venue for artists to exhibit their work, making it a place for cultural expression.
The most creative aspect of the brownstone, however, seems to be its rooms. Each room is decorated with a theme dedicated to a particular Harlem jazz jazz legend. There is the Nat “King” Cole wedding suite, accompanied by a bathroom. There are also the Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald Egyptian room, and the Louis Armstrong rooms.
Along with the rooms themselves, located on the top three floors, there are a number of bathrooms, and a Jacuzzi suite. The reception Hall on the first floor holds a mural, which measures 11 feet high and 22 feet wide entitled “The Liberian.” It depicts the history of the Africans of Liberia, explaining why Liberia is the way it is today. Downstairs has a kitchen, and a lounge in the making. Its long-term goal is to own more property and have a restaurant and entertainment, that all bring alive the history of Harlem.
The issue of longtime Harlemites being pushed out of their homes was also raised. The Harlem Landmark feels longtime residents shouldn’t be pushed out, but change happens. One must look to be a part of that change, and think in a progressive manor.” They feel major companies get funding form the Empowerment Zone and get tax brakes from the government to move into Harlem. There for small Harlem businesses should get assistance as well. The Harlem Landmark guest House expressed: it is important that longtime Harlem residents and business owners are able to benefit from the economic changes in Harlem, along with the large companies that are moving in.