Jumel Terrace Bed & Breakfast, New York, NY
BACKSTORY: Jumel Terrace B&B is a bookish hideaway in a classic brownstone on a quiet, leafy street in Harlem Heights, an area so rich in history that it’s been dubbed "where the founding fathers meet the founding brothers." That quote is from the owner of Jumel Terrace, Kurt Thometz (photo by Chester Higgins), antiquarian bookdealer, author, bibliophile and raconteur. Thometz also runs Jumel Terrace Books from a ground floor office in the brownstone. The shop specializes in local African and American history, with a focus on Harlem and Washington Heights, and there are tomes on history, art, politics and literature. Thometz, a Minnesota native who has spent the past three decades living the life in Manhattan, has curated private libraries for the likes of Brooke Astor, Diana Vreeland and Leonard Lauder. The author of Life Turns Man Up and Down, he’s a walking encyclopedia of New York history, African American and otherwise. A longtime jazz fanatic, this neighborhood was clearly meant for him. "This neighborhood" being Sugar Hill, the heart of the original Harlem Renaissance, the one-time home to Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Lena Horne and Coleman Hawkins, not to mention W.E.B. DuBois, Paul Robeson, Joe Louis and Thurgood Marshall. Across the street is the Morris-Jumel Mansion, surrounded by leafy grounds, with a view across the Harlem River to Yankee Stadium. The mansion was built in 1765 in the Palladian style and not only is it the oldest house in Manhattan but yes, George Washington slept here. So did Aaron Burr and a host of others. Duke Ellington dubbed the house "The Crown of Sugar Hill." Step around the corner and you’re walking on the cobblestones of Sylvan Terrace, a short block lined with identical wood-framed row houses from 1882. And you thought Harlem was experiencing a renaissance in 2008?
THE ROOMS: A single, quiet, 500 square foot one-bedroom garden apartment. It features a full kitchen, private bathroom, sitting room and a large bedroom with an antique full-sized bed, desk, wardrobe, table, WiFi, cable and a full garden with a gas grill.coffee/tea facilities, as well as breakfast fixings (cereal, fresh gourmet coffee, teas, milk/half and half, fresh fruit). A second, single bedroom is available upstairs, if needed, for an addtional charge.
MORE REASONS TO STAY: The old Harlem tradition of jazz at home is kept alive on Sunday afternoons at Parlor Jazz at Marjorie Elliot’s, just around the corner at 555 Edgecome Avenue, the very building where Teddy Wilson, Johnny Hodges and Mary Lou Williams lived, among others. Admission is free and it runs from 4 pm to 6 pm.
INSIDER TIP: If you want to see the city in style, Thometz can tour you around in his vintage 1976 black Checker Marathon for an extra fee.
THE DEAL: The rate is $250 per night, based on double occupancy, for an entire apartment and garden. This seems like a deal, at a time when a single hotel room in midtown Manhattan is running $500 to $600 a night and averages well over $300.
CAVEAT: Harlem may be blossoming, but there are still some rough edges.
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION: You’re two blocks from the subway (C Train ). If you need a taxi, it takes less than three minutes to corral one of the ubiquitous car services that prowl the neighborhood. And if you’re in town for the Yankees, you can literally stroll to Yankee stadium in 20 minutes.
THE DETAILS: Jumel Terrace Bed & Breakfast, 426 West 160th Street, New York, New York 10032; (212) 928-9525