“Harlem’s Beale Street” was West 133rd Street in Harlem, between Lenox Avenue and Seventh Avenue. Many night clubs, speakeasies and fried chicken restaurants were located there. “Beale Street” is the address in Memphis, Tennessee famous for blues music and Southern food. “Beale Street” was cited in print in 1926; by the late 1930s, the name was already becoming historical.
West 133rd Street has also been called “Jungle Alley” and “Whoopee Row.”
Wikipedia: 133rd Street (Manhattan)
133rd Street is a street in Manhattan and the Bronx, New York City. In Harlem, Manhattan, it begins at Riverside Drive on its western side and crosses Broadway, Amsterdam Avenue, and ends at Convent Avenue, before resuming on the eastern side, crossing Seventh Avenue, and ending at Lenox Avenue. In Port Morris in the Bronx, it runs from Bruckner Boulevard/St. Ann’s Place to Locust Avenue. The block between Seventh Avenue and Lenox Avenues was once a thriving night spot, known as “Swing Street”, with numerous cabarets, jazz clubs, and speakeasies. The street is described in modern times as “a quiet stretch of brownstones and tenement-style apartment houses, the kind of block that typifies this section of central Harlem”.
The street has historical significance during the Prohibition era when there were many speakeasies operating on the street and it was known as “Swing Street”. The street also gained a reputation as “Jungle Alley” because of “inter-racial mingling” on the street.
During the Jazz Age there were at least 20 jazz clubs on the street, mainly concentrated between Lenox Avenue (Malcolm X Boulevard) and Seventh Avenue, and a young Billie Holiday performed here and was discovered here at the age of 17.
Nightclubs of note include Tillie’s Chicken Shack, known for torch singer Elmira, Bank’s Club, Harry Hansberry’s Clam House at 146 W. 133rd St., one of New York City’s most notorious LGBT speakeasies established in 1928, featuring Gladys Bentley in a tuxedo singing “her own risque lyrics to popular songs”, and Catagonia Club, better known as Pod’s and Jerry’s, which featured jazz pianist and composer Willie “The Lion” Smith.
21 August 1926, The Afro-American (Baltimore, MD), “The Return Of The Sheik Of Harlem: A New Version Of The Prodigal Son” by Mabel Chew, pg. 15, col. 1:
The block of 135th street to which he was sent is popularly known as “Beale Street.”
17 April 1929, New York (NY) Amsterdam News, pg. 4, col. 5:
Modern Steam-Heated Apartments Are Few and Far Between on Lenox Avenue
Several Landlords Have Gone Into Room-Renting Business on Harlem’s Beale Street—Even Tiny Rooms Bring High Rents
By THELMA E. BERLACK
11 January 1930, The Afro-American (Baltimore, MD), “300 Open Barrooms Estimated in Harlem” by A. E. English (Associated Negro Press), pg. 11, col. 8:
A word in passing in regard the effervescent “Beale Street.” Manhattan has its CHinatown, its Bowery, and its teeming East Side, but it remains for Harlem to top them all with “Beale Street.” This is 133rd Street from Lenox Avenue east to the Harlem River. A man’s life is not worth a tinker’s damn in that section of Harlem.
12 January 1935, The New York Age (New York, NY), “In the Name of Art” by Vere E. Johns, pg. 4, col. 1:
I don’t think Patterson would be man enough as to tell me that he doesn’t know of Harlem’s “Beale Street” section, and I should like to know what he and Communism are doing to rectify and correct the evils that exist there.
“Beale Street” shows the folly of indulging in vice and crime and depicts what is the outcome when the wisdom and courage of the law steps in to do a little cleaning. Perhaps if Harlem’s police saw “Beale Street” they would start a cleaning-up campaign of certain sections of Harlem—east of Lenox avenue—where crime and vice of every description abound. Then perhaps we shall find Samuel Patterson standing on a soap box at 133rd street and Fifth avenue and denouncing the police and telling the Beale Streeters that they had been unjustly dealt with—in order to get a little cheap applause.
22 February 1936, The Afro-American (Baltimore, MD), pg. 12, col. 3:
Do You Remember
Harlem’s Beale Street?
Many Got Start to Fame and Fortune There
Harlem’s Beale Street is not what it used to be. I still runs the length of one city block between Lenox and and Seventh Avenues, and the signs on the lamp posts still read 133rd Street, but Beale Street has lost its old-time glamour.
THose were the days before the repeal of prohibition. Those were the days of Jerry preston Catagonia Club, Austin Toonies joint, Chunky Ambrose’s Mad House, the famous Clam House, Mexico’s Place and The Stable. Last, but not least, Beale Street was the home of the Nest Club.
24 September 1938, New York (NY) Amsterdam News, “Backdoor Stuff” by Dan Burley, pg. 20, col. 1:
Harlem’s “Beale Street” is around 133rd and Fifth.
28 February 1939, Atlanta (GA) Daily World, “Take It From Me” by Ted Yates, pg. 3, col. 1:
The Elks Rendezvous; a former cafe on what was once known as Harlem’s Beale Street, caters to the slum-seeking crowd.
20 February 1969, Oakland (CA) Post, “Negro History in Brief: Jumpin’ Harlem of the 1920’s” by Mia Lomax, pg. 2:
Most of the clubs that catered to whites only were much too expensive for the average Negro. But Negroes still protested the barriers. But all in vain, for more sprang up. Most of these prosperous clubs were located on 133rd Street between Lenox and 7th Avenue, a neighborhood known as the Beale Street of Harlem after the one made famous by W. C. Handy in Memphis. In those days of Prohibition, new dives sprang up one jump ahead of the prohibition agents. Sliding peepholes, passewords, and “membership cards” were the order of the day.
By Gil Reavill, Jean Zimmerman and Michael S. Yamashita
Oakland, CA: Compass American Guides
Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Boulevard, originally Seventh Avenue and renamed for the crusading U.S. Congressman, embraces a historic stretch of former speakeasies and nightclubs that was known as “Harlem’s Beale Street” or “Jungle Alley” during the height of the Jazz Age.