A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from November 10, 2006
Harlem Big Apple Club Plaque Removed (2006)

In November 2006, I received the following e-mail. The famous upside-down apple plaque from the 1934 Harlem “Big Apple” club at Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Boulevard and 135th Street was removed and had nearly been destroyed. The former club would now be a Popeye’s Chicken & Biscuits fast-food restaurant. (Popeye’s is from New Orleans, like “Big Apple” itself.) The plaque was being put up for sale on eBay:

hello,

I have a “Big Apple” plaque from the original Big Apple Jazz club that was located on 135 st. and Adam Clayton Powell in Harlem.  They are building a Popeyes restaurant and were going to tear it down but my step dad and I saved it and have tried to get it appraised by the museum.  I have gotten some offers but I really would like to find out for myself how much is it actually worth.  I know its an original and it is from the early 1900, also it is one of the reasons why New York is called “The Big Apple”. If you can help in any way please reply;y to the e-mail.

I have pictures of when it was on the wall and when we took it down.


The plaque was never sold and the “Big Apple” icon is now the private property of Luis Maldonado, (See the 2009 New York Times story, below.)


16 June 1934, Afro-American, “A Harlem Questionaire” by Ted Yates, pg. 8:
HARLEM HOT-CHA
That new beer tavern on 135th Street has been named the Big Apple.

23 June 1934, New Journal and Guide, “Harlem Hot-Cha” by Ted Yates, pg. 4:
The Big Apple, Harlem’s newest bar and grill opens next week.

30 June 1934, New York (NY) Amsterdam News, pg. 17:
COLONIAL STYLE BAR
OPENS FOR BUSINESS
All the colonial touches that Jimmie Shannon could find for a modern barroom he procured for his latest venture, “The Big Apple,” an ostentatious drinking emporium which opened its doors Tuesday night at the northwest corner of 135th street and Seventh avenue.

Done in glazed brick, hand-carved beams and panelings, the place is probably the snootiest in Harlem and by far the most pretentious bar ever opened by a Negro. Scrolls, wioth such sayings as the following, adorn the walls: “A Little Nonsense Now and Then Is Relished by the Best of Men,” “He Who Does Not Love Wine, Women and Song Remains a Fool His Whole Life Long.”

7 July 1934, New York Amsterdam News, pg. 9, col. 1:
“This Hectic Harlem” by Roi Ottley
(...)
The Big Apple has arrived and is worth your time.

14 June 1934, Afro-American, “New York After Dark” by Ted Yates, pg. 8:
What do they mean by the “big” apple?

Old Fulton NY Post Cards
29 October 1934, Brooklyn (NY) Daily Eagle, “Reverting to Type” by Art Arthur, pg. 9, col. 6:
Up on Lenox Ave. there’s a restaurant called “The Big Apple,” the explanation being that “the big apple” is Harlem slang for “the main stem,” which is Broadway slang for the main dino.

19 October 1935, New York (NY) Amsterdam News, “Just browsin’ ‘round the town,” pg. 7:
Mainstay.
THE BIG APPLE, which got big splash in met. papers when Joe Louis toppled Max Baer, is haven for sportsmen. Operated by Messrs. Shannon and Small, local sportsmen.

UPTOWNflavor
First Glance: Popeye’s
On January 6, 2007 by D. Bell
Popeye’s, originally uploaded by blackberry2u.
In the midst of the transfat travesty a new Popeye’s appears on the corner of 135th Street and 7th Avenue.
(...)
COMMENTS
NAT on January 7, 2007 11:37 pm
I thought the “Big Apple” plaque on the side of the building was under Landmark status. Back in the day that building and Bar had a tawdry reputation. Another piece of Harlem History is now gone.
(...)
Tobes on January 9, 2007 12:18 pm
Because what Harlem needs is *another* fried chicken place. It’s sad that the neighborhood will choose Popeye’s over local history.

UPTOWNflavor
The Big (Rotten) Apple Controversy
On January 9, 2007 by D. Bell
I thought the “Big Apple” plaque on the side of the building was under landmark status. Back in the day that building and bar had a tawdry reputation. Another piece of Harlem History is now gone. -Nat-

Sparked by a reader’s comment in a post about the new Popeye’s opening on 135th Street, I decided to get to the core of the missing Big Apple sign that used to be on the side of the building.
(...)
It seems that Barry Popik contacted the Landmark Commission to inquire about preserving the site and sign. Popik was unsuccessful in his efforts and the sign was eventually put up for sale on ebay.

Riverton Community
Thursday, September 6, 2007
Who Stole the Big Apple?
Is it just me, or is anyone else disturbed at the alarming rate at which our Harlem institutions are falling by the wayside.Some like Copelands -are the victim of economics, while others others are falling prey to changing community standards (read gentrification).

I met my wife in the late Eighties in the last iteration of Small’s Paradise, the speakeasy cum night club, where on any given night of the week, one just might witness something extraordinary, and entirely unique to Harlem. That venerated space has been reduced to hustling the same pancakes available in almost any city in the world. Not a hundred feet away, the Big Apple, after which our dear city is nicknamed was recently removed in favor of corporate design in keeping with Popeye’s look.

New York (NY) Times
A Sign Recalled a Vanished Jazz Era in Harlem; Then the Sign Vanished, Too
By A. G. SULZBERGER
Published: July 7, 2009
The Big Apple was never more than a minor player among the many clubs that swung and bopped their way into the Harlem jazz scene in its heyday. Nobody seems quite sure when it closed; many don’t remember it was there in the first place.

The club’s most enduring legacy appeared to be the sign set in the fake stone exterior of the building — a brown stucco coat of arms featuring an upside-down apple painted red and overlaid in white letters — which trumpeted the club decades after the music stopped.
(...)
“I forgot all about it,” said Luis Maldonado, speaking from his home in Florida on Monday night.

In the summer of 2006, Mr. Maldonado had just finished six years with the Navy and was working part time in demolition. While ripping down an old facade to make way for the fried chicken franchise, he stopped his stepfather — who had helped him get the job — as he was about to tear into a strange old sign of an upside-down apple.

“He was actually going to destroy it — I said, ‘No.’ It seemed like something of interest,” said Mr. Maldonado, 31. “I spoke to the landlord and I asked if it was O.K. for me to take it down off the wall and he said sure.”

As he researched the sign, Mr. Maldonado said he became excited that he had found something valuable.

“I thought I had a piece of New York history,” he said.

But his attempts to sell it — first for tens of thousands of dollars, then for more modest sums — provoked little interest, he said. When he got less than he was seeking on eBay, he tucked the plaque into his stepfather’s closet in the Bronx.

Shortly afterward he moved to Florida, where the memory of the strange artifact faded. He still hopes to sell it, he said on Monday, adding that it was more important to him that it “go somewhere meaningful.”

Harlem World Magazine
The Big Apple Night Club, 1934 (video)
Posted on February 8, 2012
In 1934, the Big Apple Night Club opened in Harlem on the northwest corner of West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue across the street from the Savoy . One of the club’s most enduring legacy was the sign set in the fake stone exterior of the building — a brown stucco coat of arms featuring an upside-down apple painted red and overlaid in white letters.
(...)
Today, decades after the music and dancing stopped the club has been transformed into a Popeye’s Chicken and Biscuits fast food business.
(...)
COMMENTS
narmer | February 9, 2012 at 8:45 am |
I read somewhere that the Big Apple was thrown in the trash during the construction of “Popeyes” and that a passerby rescued it from the construction debris. Doe anyone have any information of where the wall plaque is at now?

Harlem World | February 9, 2012 at 9:39 am |
Narmer,
Yes, you’re right. We understand that it is owned by someone in Long Island.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityThe Big Apple1980s-present: Big Apple work by Gerald Cohen, Barry Popik • (0) Comments • Friday, November 10, 2006 • Permalink