Sugar Hill, a sub-neighborhood within the upper reaches of Harlem, was named thusly to signify its status as home of “the sweet life” in New York’s African-American community. Filled with comfortable apartments and townhomes, it was home to much of the cream of Harlem’s social crop.
At the northern border of Sugar Hill stood the Polo Grounds, a New York landmark, which served as home field for the New York Giants from 1889 until their move to San Francisco in 1957.
Running past the Polo Grounds was Harlem River Speedway, a 4-lane dirt road which attracted speed junkies from all over the city, who used this wide, 2.5-mile-long avenue as a racetrack for their horses and carriages. Manhattan society, high and low alike, would line the Speedway to watch the excitement.
The crowds attracted by both the Polo Grounds and the Harlem Speedway were all the justification needed to open a hotel and watering hole in the neighborhood. And that’s just what Henry and Fredrick Troger built at 155th Street and St. Nicholas Place, the southern terminus of the Harlem Speedway. For $7,500, the brothers built Troger’s Hotel on land leased from prominent Manhattan landholders Robert and Ogden Goulet.
With a ready-made clientele regularly pouring in from the ballfield and the racetrack, Troger’s thrived for more than 50 years. In the 1930’s, it changed hands, becoming a second branch of Bowman’s Cafe and Grill. Bowman’s gave way in 1958 to the Bankers’ Lounge which featured prominent jazz acts of the day including Gloria Belle and Kenny Burrell.
Today, the time-worn old hotel is home to “Maximum’s Halal Fried Chicken & Pizza” and “Bud’s Sports Bar.” More than a century after it was built in an empty field, whistles continue to be whet at the old Troger’s Hotel.