Forged by nature in rugged masses of rock, Harlem’s historic St. Nicholas Park is situated between the flatlands of Central Harlem and the highlands of West Harlem. The park was built in 1906 and designed by Samuel Parsons Jr., a one-time Parks Commissioner and associate of Calvert Vaux, co-designer of Central Park, Prospect Park, and nearby Morningside Park. The park stretches from West 128th Street to West 141st Street and connects St. Nicholas Terrace, Edgecombe and St. Nicholas Avenues
The park is notable for its connection to early American history. St. Nicholas Avenue itself was originally an Indian path named Weekquaeskeek, which served travelers going north to Spuyten Duyvil at the tip of Manhattan. During the American Revolutionary War, the park’s southern edge known as the “Point of Rocks” was a military campground for the Battle of Harlem Heights.
The park is bordered by three remarkable church structures, St. James Presbyterian Church, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and St. Mark’s United Methodist Church, and two historic districts, St. Nicholas and Hamilton Heights. City College and A. Philip Randolph High School overlook the park’s western edge.
Alexander Hamilton, our nation’s first Secretary of the Treasury, commissioned a home in the area now called Hamilton Heights. The home, known as the Hamilton Grange, was moved into St. Nicholas Park in 2008.
In the late 1920’s, Hamilton Heights attracted wealthy African-Americans and was nicknamed “Sugar Hill,” because life there was so sweet. Harlem luminaries who have lived in Hamilton Heights include W.E.B. DuBois, Thurgood Marshall, Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn. Strivers’ Row, located in the St. Nicholas Historic District, is also famous for beautiful townhouses that were occupied by Black middleclass professionals and civic leaders of the late 1930’s, 40’s and 50’s. In 1940, the exclusive community was described in the comedic social satire, “On Strivers’ Row.” The play was the first major production of the American Negro Theater, co-founded by Abram Hill, who resided near St. Nicholas Park.