Hotel Theresa
The Hotel Theresa was a vibrant center of black life in Harlem
Harlem is a neighborhood in the New York City borough of Manhattan, which since the 1920s has been a major African-American residential, cultural and business center. Originally a Dutch village, formally organized in 1658, it is named after the city of Haarlem in the Netherlands...

, New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

, in the mid-20th century. The hotel sits at the intersection of Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard
Seventh Avenue (Manhattan)
Seventh Avenue, known as Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard north of Central Park, is a thoroughfare on the West Side of the borough of Manhattan in New York City. It is southbound below Central Park and a two-way street north of the park....

 and West 125th Street
125th Street (Manhattan)
125th Street is a two-way street that runs east-west in the New York City borough of Manhattan, considered the "Main Street" of Harlem; It is also called Martin Luther King, Jr...

 (Martin Luther King, Jr.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was an American clergyman, activist, and prominent leader in the African-American Civil Rights Movement. He is best known for being an iconic figure in the advancement of civil rights in the United States and around the world, using nonviolent methods following the...

 Boulevard). The hotel was built by German-born stockbroker Gustavus Sidenberg
Gustavus Sidenberg
Gustavus Sidenberg was a Jewish-American manufacturer and financier best known for building New York City's Hotel Theresa, which has become a New York City landmark on the National Register of Historic Places.-Life:...

 (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
Adam Clayton Powell Jr. State Office Building
The Adam Clayton Powell Jr. State Office Building is a nineteen story high-rise office building located at the intersection of 125th Street and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard the Harlem neighborhood of the New York City borough of Manhattan...

 across the street in 1973, the tallest building in Harlem. It has a striking white brick facade and was known as the "Waldorf Astoria
Waldorf-Astoria Hotel
The Waldorf-Astoria is a luxury hotel in New York. It has been housed in two historic landmark buildings in New York City. The first, designed by architect Henry J. Hardenbergh, was on the Fifth Avenue site of the Empire State Building. The present building at 301 Park Avenue in Manhattan is a...

 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
Louis Armstrong
Louis Armstrong , nicknamed Satchmo or Pops, was an American jazz trumpeter and singer from New Orleans, Louisiana....

, Sugar Ray Robinson
Sugar Ray Robinson
Sugar Ray Robinson was an African-American professional boxer. Frequently cited as the greatest boxer of all time, Robinson's performances in the welterweight and middleweight divisions prompted sportswriters to create "pound for pound" rankings, where they compared fighters regardless of weight...

, Lena Horne
Lena Horne
Lena Mary Calhoun Horne was an American singer, actress, civil rights activist and dancer.Horne joined the chorus of the Cotton Club at the age of sixteen and became a nightclub performer before moving to Hollywood, where she had small parts in numerous movies, and more substantial parts in the...

, Josephine Baker
Josephine Baker
Josephine Baker was an American dancer, singer, and actress who found fame in her adopted homeland of France. She was given such nicknames as the "Bronze Venus", the "Black Pearl", and the "Créole Goddess"....

, Dorothy Dandridge
Dorothy Dandridge
Dorothy Jean Dandridge was an American actress and popular singer, and was the first African-American to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress...

, Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington
Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington was an American composer, pianist, and big band leader. Ellington wrote over 1,000 compositions...

, Muhammad Ali
Muhammad Ali
Muhammad Ali is an American former professional boxer, philanthropist and social activist...

, Dinah Washington
Dinah Washington
Dinah Washington, born Ruth Lee Jones , was an American blues, R&B and jazz singer. She has been cited as "the most popular black female recording artist of the '50s", and called "The Queen of the Blues"...

, Ray Charles
Ray Charles
Ray Charles Robinson , known by his shortened stage name Ray Charles, was an American musician. He was a pioneer in the genre of soul music during the 1950s by fusing rhythm and blues, gospel, and blues styles into his early recordings with Atlantic Records...

, Little Richard
Little Richard
Richard Wayne Penniman , known by the stage name Little Richard, is an American singer, songwriter, musician, recording artist, and actor, considered key in the transition from rhythm and blues to rock and roll in the 1950s. He was also the first artist to put the funk in the rock and roll beat and...

, and Jimi Hendrix
Jimi Hendrix
James Marshall "Jimi" Hendrix was an American guitarist and singer-songwriter...

 all stayed in the Hotel or lived there for a time, as did Fidel Castro
Fidel Castro
Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz is a Cuban revolutionary and politician, having held the position of Prime Minister of Cuba from 1959 to 1976, and then President from 1976 to 2008. He also served as the First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba from the party's foundation in 1961 until 2011...

, 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
Nation of Islam
The Nation of Islam is a mainly African-American new religious movement founded in Detroit, Michigan by Wallace D. Fard Muhammad in July 1930 to improve the spiritual, mental, social, and economic condition of African-Americans in the United States of America. The movement teaches black pride and...

, Malcolm X
Malcolm X
Malcolm X , born Malcolm Little and also known as El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz , was an African American Muslim minister and human rights activist. To his admirers he was a courageous advocate for the rights of African Americans, a man who indicted white America in the harshest terms for its...

 maintained his competing Organization of Afro-American Unity
Organization of Afro-American Unity
The Organization of Afro-American Unity was a Pan-Africanist organization founded by Malcolm X in 1964. The OAAU was modeled on the Organisation of African Unity, which had impressed Malcolm X during his visit to Africa in April and May 1964...

 at the hotel and hosted meetings there. He met Cassius Clay
Muhammad Ali
Muhammad Ali is an American former professional boxer, philanthropist and social activist...

 in the hotel on various occasions.

Bill Clinton's commerce secretary, Ron Brown
Ron Brown (U.S. politician)
Ronald Harmon "Ron" Brown was the United States Secretary of Commerce, serving during the first term of President Bill Clinton. He was the first African American to hold this position...

, 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
Nikita Khrushchev
Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev led the Soviet Union during part of the Cold War. He served as First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1953 to 1964, and as Chairman of the Council of Ministers, or Premier, from 1958 to 1964...

 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
John F. Kennedy
John Fitzgerald "Jack" Kennedy , often referred to by his initials JFK, was the 35th President of the United States, serving from 1961 until his assassination in 1963....

 campaigned for the presidency at the hotel, along with Eleanor Roosevelt
Eleanor Roosevelt
Anna Eleanor Roosevelt was the First Lady of the United States from 1933 to 1945. She supported the New Deal policies of her husband, distant cousin Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and became an advocate for civil rights. After her husband's death in 1945, Roosevelt continued to be an international...

 and other powerful figures in the Democratic Party
Democratic Party (United States)
The Democratic Party is one of two major contemporary political parties in the United States, along with the Republican Party. The party's socially liberal and progressive platform is largely considered center-left in the U.S. political spectrum. The party has the lengthiest record of continuous...


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
Teachers College, Columbia University
Teachers College, Columbia University is a graduate school of education located in New York City, New York...

 and Touro College of Pharmacy. The building was declared a landmark by the City of New York in 1993.


  • Some scenes of Alfred Hitchcock
    Alfred Hitchcock
    Sir Alfred Joseph Hitchcock, KBE was a British film director and producer. He pioneered many techniques in the suspense and psychological thriller genres. After a successful career in British cinema in both silent films and early talkies, Hitchcock moved to Hollywood...

    's movie Topaz
    Topaz (1969 film)
    Topaz is a 1969 suspense film directed by Alfred Hitchcock. It is a Cold War and spy story, adapted from the book of the same name by Leon Uris and closely based on the 1962 Sapphire Affair involving French SDECE spy Philippe Thyraud de Vosjoli who "ha[d] played a considerable part in helping...

    , the plot of which revolves around the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis
    Cuban Missile Crisis
    The Cuban Missile Crisis was a confrontation among the Soviet Union, Cuba and the United States in October 1962, during the Cold War...

    , 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.


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