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 February 15, 2006
Big Apple Dance Hall (formerly at Wathena, Kansas)
There used to be a building (restaurant/dance hall) in the shape of a big apple at Wathena, Kansas. The building was built a few years before the 1937 big apple dance craze, but is not the source of New York City's nickname. A fire destroyed the structure in the 1940s.


25 November 1937, McKean County Democrat (Smethport, PA), pg. 3, col. 2 photo caption:
Here's the Original "Big Apple"
Dancers everywhere are doing the "Big Apple," but few know about the original which happens to be this unique country cafe and ballroom near Wathena, Kan., the capital of the apple country.

1 May 1938, New York Journal-American, American Weekly, pg. 4:
An Architect's Clever Version of the Big Apple

Photo caption:
Wathena, Kansas, Is Proud of Its "Big Apple" Restaurant and Dance Hal, Which Is in the Heart of An Orcharding Region and Was Erected Before the Big Apple Dance Became Nationally Popular.

WHENEVER a new dance craze, a popular radio or movie character or other much publicized figure is thrust into the limelight, restaurants and night-clubs are immediately named after it. From Maine to California, a man motoring over state highways is confronted with signs recommending that he try the culinary delights at the "Three Little Pigs," the "Garbo," the "Charlie McCarthy" and other places named after the great, and near great.

In fact one can almost tell the year in which the eating place was opened by the name given to it and transcontinental motorists have eased the boredom of their long trips by playing a guessing game with the restaurants they pass along the way.

They all fall down when they pass through Wathena, Kansas, and glimpse the Big Apple. While the dance itself is a recent one, the Big Apple, a large, two-story dance hall and eating place shaped like an apple, with a coat of rosy colored paint and a chimney in the form of a stem, has been a Kansas land mark for many years.

Long before the Big Apple dance craze swept over the country from Dixie and set thousands of youngsters to swaying, bending and going through contortions, the folks of Wathena and its environs were pointing to the Big Apple dance hall with pardonable pride.

Living in a section of the state where big, luscious apples are grown, they felt the dance hall proprietor was doing his bit to publicize this fruit and the farmers who own the orchards.

The Walthenans showed their appreciation by patronizing the Big Apple and on Saturday nights, young blades with their hair slicked down and girls in their very best frocks, drive into town from miles around to meet at the novel dance hall to step to the latest dance tunes.

When the Big Apple craze hit Kansas recently, it found a dance hall already built to match it.
Posted by {name}
New York CityThe Big Apple1970s-present: False Etymologies • (2) Comments • Wednesday, February 15, 2006 • Permalink


My parents met at the Big Apple Dance Hall in Wathena, Kansas.  I have a fabulous picture of the place taken around 1935.  May I email it to you?

Posted by: Paula Grant  on  05/24  at  01:24 AM

Nice article.  My father in law who will be 94 this may worked at the Apple Orchard and frequented the Big Apple in Wathena KS.  I have a large photo of the Apple which I have restored.  If you have any interest in a photo of the APPLE let me know.

Paul Grant

Posted by: Paul Grant  on  03/21  at  08:19 PM

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