Press Release

For Immediate Release: February 23, 2021
Contact: lpcpressoffice@lpc.nyc.gov, 212-669-7938

LPC, NYLPF, and Residents Celebrate Black History Month with Unveiling of Historic District Markers in the Dorrance Brooks Square Historic District

The Dorrance Brooks Square Historic District is New York City's first historic district named after an African American and has strong associations with notable figures in the Harlem Renaissance who made important contributions to the arts, social justice, and New York City's civic life.

The historic district markers highlight the boundaries on one side and offer a brief description and history on the other.

Landmarks Preservation Commission Chair Sarah Carroll (left) joined by New York Landmarks Preservation Foundation Board Member Richard Farley, Community Board 10 District Manager Shatic Mitchell, Keith Taylor, president of the Dorrance Brooks Property Owners and Residents Association, and members of the community, stand below the new Dorrance Brooks Square Historic District marker sign.
Landmarks Preservation Commission Chair Sarah Carroll, Commissioner Michael Goldblum, Keith Taylor, president of the Dorrance Brooks Property Owners and Residents Association, and members of the community pull the string to remove the paper covering and unveil the new Dorrance Brooks Square Historic District marker sign.

New York – In honor of Black History Month, today, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC), the New York Landmarks Preservation Foundation (NYLPF), and the Dorrance Brooks Property Owners and Residents Association celebrated the 2021 designation of the Dorrance Brooks Square Historic District with the unveiling of historic district markers to promote and commemorate the importance of this district. The Dorrance Brooks Square Historic District is New York City's first historic district named after an African American, World War 1 war hero Dorrance Brooks, and has strong associations with notable figures in the Harlem Renaissance who made important contributions to the arts, social justice, and New York City's civic life.

"The Commission designated the Dorrance Brooks Square Historic District both for its architectural merit and to recognize its associations with the Harlem Renaissance and Civil Rights movements, and through this designation recognized the African American figures who played a critical role in creating political and social change in New York City and the nation," said Landmarks Preservation Commission Chair Sarah Carroll. "The installation of these historic district markers will memorialize the designation of this historic district – the first named after an African American – and let New Yorkers and visitors alike know about its historic and architectural importance."

"New York City honors its Black history and heritage, and as we celebrate Black History Month, the recognition of the Dorrance Brooks Square Historic District is especially important and fitting," said Deputy Mayor Maria Torres-Springer. "These historic district markers are a wonderful way to commemorate Harlem's rich history and contributions to our city."

"In addition to acknowledging the notable African Americans associated with this neighborhood, this beautiful district contains intact buildings that were designed, built and have been maintained with care," said Landmarks Preservation Foundation Chair Tom Krizmanic. "The neighborhood includes a wide range of solid early 20th century structures that contribute to the strength of the community through the quality of the architecture."

The marker installation is part of the NYLPF's Historic District Marker Program, which fosters public awareness and civic pride in designated historic districts in the five boroughs through signage. A total of six markers, funded by the NYLPF and the Dorrance Brooks Property Owners and Residents Association, have been installed on street poles at Dorrance Brooks Square Park (by St. Nicholas Avenue and West 136th Street), on the north side of West 136th Street (between Adam Clayton Powell and Frederick Douglass Boulevard),  on the north side of West 137th Street (between Edgecombe Avenue and Frederick Douglass Boulevard), on the south side of West 137th Street (between Adam Clayton Powell and Frederick Douglass Boulevard), on the north side of West 138th Street (between Edgecombe Avenue and Frederick Douglass Boulevard), and on the north side of West 139th Street (between Edgecombe Avenue and Frederick Douglass Boulevard).

The newly installed markers are 19-by-36-inch terra cotta-colored signs and feature a map on one side and a brief description and history of the district on the other. The marker text reads as follows:

"The Dorrance Brooks Square Historic District, designated in 2021, is significant for its association with notable and pioneering African American individuals, institutions, and organizations during the Harlem Renaissance in the fields of politics, literature, healthcare, and education. The district features a striking collection of late-19th- and early-20thcentury row houses, religious structures, and apartment buildings that create intact and picturesque streetscapes. Dorrance Brooks Square, dedicated in 1925, was named for a Black serviceman who died in action while serving with a segregated military regiment in World War I. It was the first public place in New York City to be named for an African American."

"As a woman who comes from a family of veterans including my grandfather Victor Jordan who was a World War II vet and who married at Abyssinian Baptist Church and lived right here in Harlem, and as a member of the Veterans Affairs Committee of the New York City Council, I love and honor this commemoration today," said Council Member Kristin Richardson Jordan. "This park and historic district are named in honor of Dorrance Brooks an African American soldier who died in France shortly before the end of World War I and who is known for his deep bravery in continuing the charge after his superiors were killed. This bravery is what we all need in our hearts today as many of our spaces and memorials whether recognized by the powers that be or not are under attack. It is my honor to stand here as we lift up this piece of our history.">

"NYC Parks has long believed that our public spaces should be reflective of the diverse communities we serve, and we are proud that Dorrance Brooks Square is at the heart of this important new Historic District," said NYC Parks Manhattan Borough Commissioner William T. Castro. "The historic district markers will help honor the Black experience in New York City by memorializing Harlem Hellfighter Dorrance Brooks and the area's significant ties to the Harlem Renaissance."

"This historic marker celebrates the first historic district in NYC to be named after an African-American, and the square where it is located was in 1925 the first park in NYC to be named after an African-American, Private First Class Dorrance Brooks, a Harlem Hellfighter who in World War I gave his life fighting valiantly for American democracy overseas and to show this country that African-Americans were patriotic, loyal Americans worthy of equal treatment under the law, free from discriminatory practices based on race," said Keith Taylor, president of the Dorrance Brooks Property Owners and Residents Association. "This district, and the markers that showcase it, acknowledge the challenges and triumphs of African Americans in both the civil and human rights struggle for equality, as well as the significant contributions to American culture in art, literature, music, education, business and science. The Dorrance Brooks Square Property Owners and Residents Association is proud to celebrate Black History Month with the installation of these historic markers and thanks the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission and New York Landmarks Conservancy for their stalwart leadership and support."

About the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC)

The Landmarks Preservation Commission is the mayoral agency responsible for protecting and preserving New York City's architecturally, historically and culturally significant buildings and sites. Since its creation in 1965, LPC has granted landmark status to more than 37,000 buildings and sites, including 1,443 individual landmarks, 121 interior landmarks, 11 scenic landmarks, and 152 historic districts and extensions in all five boroughs. For more information, visit www.nyc.gov/landmarks and connect with us via www.facebook.com/NYCLandmarks and www.twitter.com/nyclandmarks.

About the New York Landmarks Preservation Foundation (NYLPF)

The New York Landmarks Preservation Foundation is a not-for-profit organization that supports work that relates to the designation of New York City landmarks, including the well-recognized Bronze Plaque Program for individual landmarks, the Street Sign Program, and the Historic District Marker Program. For more information, visit http://www.nylpf.org/.