By SAMANTHA SCHMIDT
As a young girl in Portland, Ore., Renée Watson immersed herself in the words of Langston Hughes, discovering that his poems about black identity mirrored experiences in her own life. Since moving to Harlem more than a decade ago, she has often walked by his old home — a three-story brownstone on East 127th Street with cast-iron railings and overgrown ivy.
The author spent his final 20 years, and wrote some of the most notable literary works of the Harlem Renaissance, in this house. It was designated a historic landmark in 1981. Yet in recent years, the property has remained empty. A performance space opened in 2007 but closed when the tenants were evicted about a year later. In 2010, the current owner listed the house for $1 million but found no buyers.
With her neighborhood experiencing rapid gentrification, Ms. Watson, 38, an author and poet, felt that too many crucial landmarks of the Harlem Renaissance, like Mr. Hughes’s home, were disappearing or going unnoticed.
“It feels like, whether it’s intentional or not, our stories are being erased,” Ms. Watson said.