Hotel Theresa
The Hotel Theresa was a vibrant center of black life in Harlem, New York City, in the mid-20th century. The hotel sits at the intersection of Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard and Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard (formerly known as 7th Avenue and 125th Street). The hotel was built by German-born stockbroker Gustavus Sidenberg (1843-1915), and designed by the firm of Buchman and Fox in a neo-renaissance style. It opened in 1913 and was from then, until the construction of the Adam Clayton Powell Jr. State Office Building across the street in 1973, the tallest building in Harlem. It has a striking white brick facade and was known as the " Waldorf Astoria of Harlem." From the time it opened until 1940, the hotel accepted only white guests plus a few black celebrities. This changed when the hotel passed to new management. Louis Armstrong, Sugar Ray Robinson, Lena Horne, Josephine Baker, Dorothy Dandridge, Duke Ellington, Muhammad Ali, Dinah Washington, Ray Charles, Little Richard, and Jimi Hendrix all stayed in the Hotel or lived there for a time, as did Fidel Castro, while in New York for the 1960 opening session of the United Nations, after storming out of the Hotel Shelburne because of that hotel manager's "unacceptable cash" demands. Castro's entourage rented 80 rooms at the Theresa for $800 per day. The hotel profited from the refusal of prestigious hotels elsewhere in the city to accept black guests. As a result, black businessmen, performers, and athletes were thrown under the same roof. After leaving the Nation of Islam, Malcolm X maintained his competing Organization of Afro-American Unity at the hotel and hosted meetings there. He met Cassius Clay in the hotel on various occasions. Bill Clinton's commerce secretary, Ron Brown, grew up in the hotel, where his father worked as manager. U.S. Congressman Charles Rangel (D-Harlem) once worked there as a desk clerk. The hotel may have enjoyed its greatest prominence in 1960. Nikita Khrushchev visited New York in that year, during the week when Castro was staying in Harlem, and came to meet him in the hotel. Also, in October 1960, John F. Kennedy campaigned for the presidency at the hotel, along with Eleanor Roosevelt and other powerful figures in the Democratic Party. The hotel suffered from the continued deterioration of Harlem through the 1950s and 1960s, and, ironically, from the end of segregation elsewhere in the city. As black people of means had alternatives, they stopped coming to Harlem. The hotel closed in 1967. After remaining vacant for four years, the building was converted to office space in 1971, and now goes by the name Theresa Towers, though a sign with the old name is still painted on the side of the building, and the old name is still commonly used. It now serves as an auxiliary campus for Teachers College, Columbia University and Touro College of Pharmacy. The building was declared a landmark by the City of New York in 1993.

  • Some scenes of Alfred Hitchcock's movie Topaz , the plot of which revolves around the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, are set in and in front of the Hotel Theresa.
  • The Hotel Theresa is one of the settings in the film Precious: Based on the Novel "Push" by Sapphire.

  • Barry Popik: Waldorf of Harlem (Hotel Theresa, now Theresa Towers), June 04, 2005
  • Meet Me at the Theresa : The Story of Harlem's Most Famous Hotel, Sondra Kathryn Wilson, 2004