Offbeat New York

New York City Lodging: Harlem Jazz and Gospel Getaway

Why settle for a noisy New York City hotel with no personality when a handsome historic mansion on a beautiful, tree-lined, quiet street awaits? The Harlem Jazz and Gospel Getaway offers much more bang for the buck: for $600 a night, guests get dining, living, and sleeping quarters; music, media, and billiard rooms; an elevator to expedite the hike between the five floors; and a placid sitting garden – all in a 19th century brownstone with 21st century amenities.
Renovated to meet Architectural Digest standards in 2007, the meticulously-maintained mansion features framed photographs of jazz greats, a laundry room, skylights with southern exposure, and a well-stocked library that includes plenty of cookbooks. Guests can cook inside or outside, where a gas grill waits to be fired up.

Owner Joyce Roquemore Hanly raised her three children in the home before deciding to share it with out-of-town visitors. Her 1985 wedding portrait, along with other personal photos, still hangs on the walls.

She prides knowing her guests feel at home. Art and music lovers will surely enjoy the mansion. They're bound to make use of the piano in the living room. "There's practically someone in every group who loves to play the piano." So sing-alongs are inevitable. And if not, there's always card games and conversation.

"I care about my guests and their happiness, she says. "I meet all of them and try to direct them to the jazz venues. I chose the name Harlem Jazz and Gospel Getaway because I want to promote Harlem and its musical traditions. Guests will find everything they need, including lots of closet space."

With an average stay of three to eight days, they’ll need it. If groups are large enough, they might also make use of the five bathrooms, four fireplaces, and proximity to such Harlem icons as the National Jazz Museum in Harlem, art-deco Lenox Lounge and its unique Zebra Room, the acclaimed Maysles Cinema (for documentary films) and the famed Apollo Theater. There's even a telephone in the elevator – with no charges for calls anywhere in North America.

Hanly provides plenty of extras, from a fully-equipped kitchen to information about the tree-lined, congenial neighborhood. Board games, musical instruments, candles, and facilities for dinner parties of 20 people are also available in the house. Hanly has thought of everything.

She's had girl groups, guy groups, and friends/family groups, as well as couples and vistors of all kinds from all over world. Someday soon, she might host beekeepers. "I want to learn how to keep urban bees, she says, "and I want my home to be a green mansion." Another interest she has is for a shopping tour of Harlem.

Hanly is quick to point out the affordability of her mansion. Although a minimum stay of three nights is required, the $600 nightly cost comes down to $60 per head if shared by 10 people. "We’re pretty well-booked but we want to be even more booked," says the affable proprietor. It's a potential destination for conferences, soirees, reunions, weddings, or graduations.

The property affords stunning views of Manhattan by night from its main dining room. It is not far from Central Park or transit lines that link Harlem to midtown Manhattan, especially with buses that go down Fifth Avenue or up Madison Avenue and the subway nearby at 125th Street. Sophisticated yet comfortable and homey, Harlem Jazz and Gospel Getaway sounds more like a tour than a house. The variety is certainly there: guests never need to leave, with plenty to occupy them inside the venerable mansion. They can even purchase photographs of Frank Sinatra and Duke Ellington right off the structure's walls.

Some visitors, lured by church bells on weekends, make a point of going to nearby churches to catch the gospel sound live. They might run into someone famous on the street; former President Bill Clinton chose Harlem as the site of his office after he left the White House.

Clinton helped initiate the Black Renaissance that has revitalized the area but Joyce Roquefort Hanly has played a role too. Her comment book is filled with accolades.

For further information, see,, or call the owner at 516-318-3976.
Carla Marie Rupp is a musician and writer who divides her time between Lower Manhattan in New York City and Bangkok and Pattaya, Thailand.

(c) All photos by Carla Marie Rupp
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