Place

Hotel Theresa

13 story hotel building with two trees in front of the entrance and cars on the city block
Hotel Theresa

Photograph by Anthony Robins, courtesy of New York Historic Preservation Office

Quick Facts
Listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2005, the Hotel Theresa was one of the major social centers of Harlem, serving from 1940 until its conversion into an office building in the late 1960s as one of the most important institutions for Harlem’s African American community. In 1940, long after Harlem had become a predominantly African American community, the Hotel Theresa dropped its discrimination policies, went under new management, installed an African American manager and catered almost exclusively to a black clientele. As a result, the Theresa went on to become the most famous African American hotel in the nation. At its height, the Theresa was known as the “Waldorf of Harlem,” playing host to many of America’s most prominent black social, political, entertainment, and sports figures, as well as to many foreign dignitaries. In addition to its historical importance, the hotel is a major work of the noted architectural firm of George & Edward Blum. The building’s architecture exemplifies the firm’s singular approach to ornamentation and inventive use of terra cotta.

The Theresa was also home to important Harlem institutions, including the March Community Bookstore and Malcolm X’s Organization of Afro-American Unity. The Theresa entered the national limelight in 1960 when Cuban premier Fidel Castro chose to stay at the hotel while visiting New York to speak at the United Nations General Assembly. Since the Theresa was the largest hotel in Harlem and one of the few hotels in New York City that welcomed black guests, it became a major social center for New York’s black community and a mecca for America’s black elite.

Link to Hotel Theresa File

Last updated: August 9, 2021