Renowned Harlem Week Begins This Weekend

This coming Saturday, July 28th kicks off a month-long celebration of all things Harlem. Since 1974, millions have flocked to 125th street and beyond to commemorate the past, present and future of the historical Harlem neighborhood we call home. What started as "Harlem Day," turned into Harlem Week and eventually Harlem Month. Now in its 38th year, people of all ages are invited to take part in over 100 different events over the span of four weeks. Whether arts & crafts are your thing or free concerts, food, jazz festivals and even gospel choirs, Harlem Week has it all and we couldn't be more excited to participate.

For starters, Ginny's is pleased to announce we'll be featuring the legendary Bobbi Humphrey to perform on August 11th. Humphrey is a local Harlem native who is famous for her smash hit, "Harlem River Drive." To spice things up even more, the Rooster will be featuring a special cocktail honoring the historical and celebratory week.

While the list of things to do during Harlem Week is continually growing, we wanted to share with you a few of our "can't miss," absolute favorite Harlem Week events.

Friday, July 27th- What better way to kick off Harlem Week with a dance party in the courtyard, cocktails and a guided tour of one of the many galleries featured in Harlem's Studio Museum right on 125th street. For $20 ($15 for studio museum members), you're invited to a night of complete Harlem celebration, with the opportunity to connect with artists, vendors, art curators and more. The event is held from 7-10 p.m. and tickets can be purchased by RSVPing to UptownFridays@studiomuseum.org

Sunday, July 29th : Aptly titled, "A Great Day in Harlem," the day-long event is covering all ends of the spectrum to kick off Harlem Week in the best way possible. With outdoor picnics, a fashion show, arts & crafts, food vendors s and all sorts of concerts (Gospel, Dance, Latin, Blues & Jazz), the second official day of Harlem Week is an absolute can't miss. Taking place at the U.S. Grant National Memorial Park right off of 122nd & Riverside Drive, all of the events are free and open to the public.

Wednesdays August 1st, 8th, 15th, 22nd, 29th - "Long Live The Music" sure is right! For these five nights, don't miss your chance to see Amateur Night honored at the historic Apollo Theater. To celebrate Harlem Week, the cast of New Harlem Art Theatre's "Sweet Charity" will perform alongside a fabulous host, WHCR-FM's very own William Torres. Tickets range from $19 to $29 dollars and are available in person through the Apollo or online at ticketmaster.

Saturday, August 4th-  We can't think of any better way to celebrate summer in Harlem through the power of music and dance. Starting at 12 until 7 p.m., the Dance Theatre of Harlem is hosting a street festival on W. 152nd from Amsterdam to St. Nicholas Avenue. Admission is free for all ages and the day is a can't miss, seeing as the dance company will be celebrating healthy eating lifestyles by featuring local food and retail vendors from all over Harlem. Additionally, family health screenings will be available to all people during the festival hours.

For more information about Harlem Week and its events, please click here.

The George Washington Bridge: Suspension Sandwich

By: Dylan Rodgers

Over 600 feet tall and lit up like Vegas at night, the George Washington Bridge stands as a marvel to modern engineering. It spans a distance of 4,760 ft. across the Hudson River and connects Washington Heights in Harlem, NY to Fort Lee, New Jersey. The length is not what makes this bridge remarkable.  The George Washington Bridge is built like an Oreo with two layers for the creamy vehicular filling to drive on. In fact, the added capacity of a second level makes this the only 14 lane suspension bridge in existence, and it's all thanks to Othmar H. Ammann.

Ammann designed and oversaw construction of 6 of the 11 bridges that connect NYC to the rest of the contiguous United States. Originally the George Washington Bridge was planned as a six lane wire-suspension bridge. The idea of a suspension-style bridge was used as early as the 15th century near Tibet and Bhutan.  With the addition of heavy-duty, steel cables the suspension bridge has become the most cost-efficient and versatile style of bridge, something that the George Washington Bridge considering the substantial changes it has undergone and easily taken in stride.

In 1946, two lanes were added to the top level. By 1962, the bottom level was opened to traffic, an addition that increased the bridge's capacity by 75 percent. It is amazing that the traffic weight and pressure can nearly double and not only be handled, but be dealt with constantly for 49 years is another feat entirely.

The George Washington Bridge was deemed a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark in 1981.

As Harlem Week (Month) comes to a close and with you running all around town visiting every key historical site I've posted, I wanted to feature one that is easily overlooked from a purely functional standpoint. The George Washington Bridge though 604 feet tall, lit as if it is an aspiring airport, and entirely one of a kind almost seems to just blend into the road in our day-to-day routine. The next time you cross that bridge, take some time to really let it all sink in. Crossing it could easily become one of the more inspiring times of your day.

Photo: Hialean

The Little Red Lighthouse: A Children's Lesson to Adults

By: Dylan Rodgers

There's an old saying, "Every time a child cries, a lighthouse gets its wings." ... or something to that effect. O.K., maybe that's not an old saying, or any saying for that matter, but in the case of one red lighthouse, it's entirely true.

Have you ever read The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge, by Hildegarde H. Swift? Long story short: It is about the construction of the 604 ft. Washington Bridge next to the 40 ft. lighthouse. Before the Washington Bridge was built, the Little Red Lighthouse was the only protection ships had from the jagged rocks as they navigated the narrow Hudson River pass between Harlem and Fort Lee, New Jersey.

Swift's book teaches children of the important role that the lighthouse played in the safety of the ships, and that even though the Washington Bridge is much bigger and now supplies all the light needed, the Little Red Lighthouse still has importance.

In 1951, the city proposed to remove the lighthouse, but because of public outcry by none other than the nation's children, the Little Red Lighthouse stands to this day. The crazy part about all of this is that the moral of Swift's story became actualized when the smallest people in the country, the ones that often cannot even choose what clothes they will wear for the day, demanded that the lighthouse stay, and it did.

It's nice when a lesson so worthwhile actually gets through to an entire generation. Now granted, it probably started just as the kids just wanting their favorite lighthouse to stay around. But as the reality set in that they won that battle, the moral of The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge reached new levels of clarity and understanding.

Photo: David Bledsoe

Red Rooster and the Bus

As we conclude Harlem Week, it was my pleasure to bring you information on my site about Harlem, its events, and its historical sites. I'm proud to call Harlem my neighborhood and I often reflect on what living here means to me. When we opened Red Rooster, I wanted to make it a destination restaurant, not only for out-of-towners, but also for New Yorkers who don't always make it uptown to Harlem. This is such a vibrant community and I wanted to share that with all of New York.

One aspect that I find amazing about our location on 125th Street, is that although we pride ourselves in being an upscale comfort food restaurant, we're located right in the heart of Harlem, where the whole neighborhood lives and congregates in. We're near Marcus Garvey Park and Adam Clayton Square. Being on the corner of 125th and Lennox, also means we're right in the center of the commute. On our corner, the #2 & 3 trains stop here as well as the Manhattan Bus line. Being right in front of the bus stop allows us to see all of the Harlemites that get on and off the bus. It's a joy to see a patron get off the bus and head over to Red Rooster for their morning coffee or biscuit from the Nook. It's inspirational for me to see the community in and around Red Rooster on a daily basis.

After working in Europe and at three-star restaurants, never would I have imagined to open a restaurant in front of a bus stop. Yet, that goes to show how I have evolved not only as a person, but as a chef. It shows a more democratic way of thinking as a chef, where good food is no longer only meant for the elite, but for everyone you bring the food to. I'm happy to see familiar faces from Harlem stop by Red Rooster everyday. It validates my work here at the restaurant and in Harlem.

Don't forget, just because Harlem Week (or month) is ending, that does not mean our communities should cease to be celebrated on a daily basis. You are what make your community your home, and thankfully, Harlem is my home.

The Cathedral of St. John the Divine

By: Dylan Rodgers

Boasting over 600 feet in length, the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in Morningside Heights, Harlem is the largest Gothic cathedral in existence.  Just to get some perspective on this massive and intricately built house of worship, the Statue of Liberty could go sing praises along with at least thirty other worshipers in the sanctuary alone.  That's like the size of 2 football fields or well over 6 blue whales in length.

It is no wonder then that the construction of Cathedral of St. John the Divine began in 1892 and ended over a hundred years later.  Heins & Lafarge, the architectural firm in charge of the cathedral's construction, had designed it as a Roman/Byzantine hybrid.  In 1907, Heins died and the contract for the cathedral construction was passed to Ralph Adams Cram.  Cram specialized in Gothic-style architecture, and staying true to his methodology, he redesigned the church.  He kept the basic layout of the Roman Basilica plan (a rectangular room with a cubby on each side to resemble a cross), but added some Gothic flare.

Cram drew in beautiful, circular stained glass windows and delicately crafted trim around every focal point.  The cathedral was transformed into a medieval castle that not only wows its observers, it inspires powerful and emotional responses.  Once the nave opened to the public in 1941, the spirit was rekindled when the crowd was finally able to experience the cathedral's massive grandeur. And then came Pearl Harbor.

Construction of St. John's cathedral screeched to a halt and would remain untouched for 32 years.  By the 70's, masonry and stone work had commenced.  There has been unbelievable support from the community that revered the cathedral as a symbol of hope and rebirth, especially in the times of economic hardship in the 70's, the 90's, and now.

Now in 2011, the Cathedral of St. John the Divine is still not entirely finished, but no new construction is planned.  The scaffolding was removed from the cathedral's south tower in 2007 and there remains plenty of restoration work to do to finished elements.  With some cathedrals taking up to 500 years to be completed, the 119 year construction of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine is actually going rather quickly.

Photo: Tom Thai