The Langston Hughes House and a Gentrifying Harlem

Artists and community members seek to preserve the culture and identity of Harlem amid the growing popularity and expense of housing in their community and all over New York.

1 minute read

October 18, 2016, 10:00 AM PDT

By Casey Brazeal @northandclark


Alizada Studios / Shutterstock

New York is growing and, according to an article about Harlem by Hilary Saunders in Next City, "Real estate prices are rising, as they are in all five NYC boroughs." This may be great news for property owners planning to sell, but it can pose challenges for those looking to preserve the history of some of America's most iconic neighborhoods. 

Harlem was home to so many great American artists and many in the community want to make sure the neighborhood that nurtured them doesn't get bulldozed in a rush to put up Whole Foods and brunch spots. One home in particular that Harlem residents are fighting to keep is "the three-story brownstone where (Harlem) Renaissance poet Langston Hughes once made his home." The I, Too, Arts Collective (named for one of Hughes' poems) is raising funds to make the house, which has been empty for decades, into an arts space. They envision it as a site to host open mics, readings and other arts events.

Saunders spoke with one Harlem resident, author Renée Watson who described her hopes for the space this way: "I think the benefit of a space like this is that it strengthens the community and also makes art a living thing, something that is tangible, art that is grounded in the past while very much speaking to present issues."

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