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. Now a Popeyes fast food restaurant on Google Maps.

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Entry from July 12, 2005
Jungle Alley (West 133rd Street)
"Jungle Alley" was West 133rd Street in Harlem, between Lenox Avenue and Seventh Avenue. Many night clubs, speakeasies and fried chicken restaurants were located there.

"Jungle Alley" was popular in the 1920s, but had largely diminished by the end of the 1930s. West 133rd Street has also been called "Harlem's Beale Street" 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.

THE WHITE-ORIENTED TRADE CLUBS. A newcomer to Harlem would invariably start at Jungle Alley, for this strip of 133rd Street between Lenox and Seventh avenues provided the densest aggregation of nightclubs and cabarets in New York. Most of the big clubs catered to a predominantly white trade. Variety listed eleven, but the uncontested Big Three were the Cotton Club, Connie's Inn, and Small's Paradise.

Although the blues culture provided space for interracial socializing it also provided space for racial segregation. Mafia owned clubs along "Jungle Alley" (a strip of 133rd St. between Lenox and Seventh Ave.), like the Cotton Club, Small's Paradise and Connie's Inn, catered to an exclusively white clientele. Performers at these clubs, especially women were young and "high yellow," light skinned. Unlike the "rent parties" and "buffet flats," the performers did not ever socialize with the audience. Bessie Smith did not perform at these clubs, it was not "her people," and she was "too black" to be accepted there.

Saturday, June 12th, 8 p.m.Jungle Alley Salutes Ladies of Jazz by Lillian R. Butler
Lenora, a cleaning woman, takes us on a historical journey when Harlem clubs on 139th Street off Seventh Avenue (Jungle Alley) were in vogue with live jazz bands and hot dancers. Lenora weaves magic in verse and lyric in this humorous. and honest musical tribute to Billie Holiday, Dinah Washington, Ella Fitzgerald and Josephine Baker. These pioneer artists' songs include, Gimme a Pigfoot, Mood Indigo, Strange Fruit, plus many more, which deeply influenced future generations of singers.

12 March 1932, Pittsburgh (PA) Courier, "The Harlem Limited-Broadway Bound" by Floyd G. Snelson, pg. A1, col. 1:
Then there's West 133rd street, "Jungle Alley" they call it. Here the Nest Club holds its famous breakfast dances to the great delight of the fortunate who attend.
Tillie's Chicken Grill is another famous spot in Jungle Alley.
The Log Cabin is another member of the Jungle Alley group.

22 January 1935, Daily News (Frederick, MD), "In New York" by Paul Harrison, pg. 4, col. 7:
Jungle Alley (133rd street) doesn't seem in the least forbidding these nights. A few little places are running, but they're pure sepian and the appearance of a white person is considered something of an intrusion.
Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityStreets • Tuesday, July 12, 2005 • Permalink

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