Lost Jazz Shrines of Brooklyn: The Weeksville Collection Timeline (An Interlude)

If timelines are your thing, then we've got you covered.

Updated 11/18/2015

We're taking a break from the idiosyncrasies that define jazz: idiom, improvisation, and non-linearity, to present a chronological overview of the jazz venues of Bedford-Stuyvescant, Crown Heights, and Fort Greene from 1922 to 2015 - a time span that spans a near century.  This companion timeline, presented in lieu of the October 10, 2015 exhibit launch of the Lost Jazz Shrines of Brooklyn: The Weeksville Collection, presents a historic glimpse of the 'lost shrines' where jazz music and jazz personages converged.  Please be sure to check-in later for a more comprehensive (+!) timeline, via the Weeksville Lost Jazz Shrines of Brooklyn (WLJSB) research page.

We're also here to formally acknowledge the 1965 passage of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Law and to commemorate its 50th anniversary.  As an Alliance member, with Landmark status since 1970, WHC is proud to (re)present, in exhibit form, the WLJSB. The exhibit explores the jazz venues that once lined the streets of Bedford-Stuyvesant and Crown Heights (now shuttered, re-purposed, or no longer standing). The WLJSB archive was imagined and created by Jennifer Scott and Willard Jenkins at WHC. The project references the National Lost Jazz Shrines Project, initiated by 651 Arts nearly twenty years ago in an effort to engage organizations around the country in celebrating historic jazz venues in their communities. WHC's collection, currently held in the 5th of July Resource Center for Self-Determination & Freedom, contains oral histories and interviews, musical recordings, photographs, publications, correspondence, primary and secondary research documents, and ephemera related to the cultural legacy of jazz history in Central Brooklyn.  Lost Jazz Shrines of Brooklyn: the Weeksville Collection reflects the breadth of WHC’s archive and recreates the ambiance and collective spirit these iconic venues embodied.

Weeksville Heritage Center gratefully acknowledges American Express, the original funders of the Lost Jazz Shrines Archive Project and the team who developed this archive, including: Jennifer Scott, Willard Jenkins; Jitu Weusi, Randy Weston, Maxine Gordon, and Kaitlyn Greenidge. We recognize the generous role of the Central Brooklyn Jazz Consortium in developing the Weeksville archive and preserving jazz, jazz history, and jazz venues in Brooklyn.

Special thanks: Malik Abdul-Rahmaan; Academy Records; Taja Cheek; Vincent R. Gardner; Ron Hutchinson, The Vitaphone Project; Darrell M. McNeil, BAM; Rachel Mattson; Bill May; Ras Moshe; Isabella Nimmo; NYU Institute of African American Affairs; Gene Peters, Karen Snider;  Shay Wafer, 651 Arts; and Aja Burrell Wood.

Curators and Research: Megan Goins-Diouf, Lisa Stewart Garrison, and Anika Paris

Visitor Experience and Education Manager: Marvin Hickman

Project Coordinator: laurie prendergast

Executive Director: Tia Powell-Harris

1922:  Among Brooklyn’s grand theaters the first to book black jazz artists was Loew’s Metropolitan Theater at 392 Fulton. Mamie Smith and Her Jazz Hounds played for a week as part of her tour of the vaudeville circuit.  

1931:  The Paramount Theater on Flatbush and Dekalb first engaged Duke Ellington’s Orchestra as an additional act to accompany a film. Within three weeks, Ellington had become the main draw. Eleven year’s after the building’s sale in 1960 to Long Island University, Ellington would play the final jazz concert on the Paramount stage.

1934:   As the dance band craze entered full swing, jazz found its home in Brooklyn’s ballrooms. Brooklyn’s early big bands rehearsed and performed at the Sonia on Bedford and Putnam. Local bands, popular vocalists, and major stars made appearances at the Sonia, the Acadia on Broadway and Halsey and the Bedford at 1153 Atlantic.  

1937:  While a student at Boys High School at 832 Marcy Avenue, Clarence Berry formed a band with his classmates saxophonist Ray Abrams and bassist Leonard Gaskin to play at social club dances. Max Roach, Randy Weston, Cecil Payne, and Duke Jordon are among Boys High’s musically talented jazz alumni.

1939:  The 23rd Regiment Armory, at Bedford and Atlantic, and the 13th Regiment Armory, on Sumner (Marcus Garvey Boulevard) between Putnam and Jefferson, hosted dances produced by Brooklyn social clubs, featuring artists such as Count Basie and his orchestra.      

1944:  Cain Young’s Kingston Lounge on Kingston and Bergen and other black-owned jazz clubs opened in Bed-Stuy during and after WWII. While most venues were for men, Kingston Lounge welcomed women and pioneered fine dining and southern cooking. Other venues rushed to open dining rooms.

1945:  Founded in 1945, Putnam Central was a private jazz club for men of color that promoted social welfare and community spirit in Bedford-Stuyvesant. The club had a dining room, assembly hall, lodge room, café, reading room, card room, meeting room, and cocktail lounge. 

1945:  The Verona Café opened at 1330 Fulton and began featuring Tuesday “audition nights” offering emerging musicians opportunities to perform with headliners. Informal mentoring arrangements and chances to play with great musicians became fundamental characteristics of the Brooklyn scene.                           

1946:  Returning Tuskegee Airman Richard Simons, a member of the 99th Fighter Squadron (Redtails), opened his jazz club, Turbo Village, at Halsey and Reid. “Rusty” designed the club to evoke the atmosphere of an airplane’s interior; the bar was in the shape of a plane wing.

1947:  Black proprietors of Brooklyn jazz clubs were typically more collegial than competitive. At the opening of the Elmo Lounge at 243 Reid Street, Mrs. Ethyl Allan, the new proprietress, was welcomed into their ranks. African American builder H. Decker Carne designed and constructed the venue.

1952:  Tony’s Club Grandean on Grand and Dean enlisted the “fabulous Jimmy Morton,” as MC and retained Max Roach to help with bookings. When Thelonius Monk’s cabaret card was suspended, he appeared in Brooklyn before enthusiastic crowds at Tony’s.

1955:  The Brooklyn chapter of the NAACP held a cabaret fundraiser at the Tip Top Inn on Fulton and Utica. The “Birdland of Brooklyn” was packed. Club owner Irving Fellon paid half the membership costs for those who joined the NAACP that night.                       

1958:  Brooklyn’s first African restaurant, The African Quarter, was opened by reed-player Bilal Abdurahman on Fulton and Schenectady, featuring music that mixed jazz and East African sounds. With newly independent nations joining the United Nations, African dignitaries in New York were among its early patrons.
  1200 Fulton Street first opened as the Club Coronet, walking distance from Carroll Bar, Baby Grand, Arlington Inn, and Verona Café. A concentration of clubs on and around Fulton created a bustling nightlife. In 1967, Richard Habersham-Bey bought the building and re-opened it as the Blue Coronet.   

1965:  “The Night of the Cookers,” organized by Club Jest Us, was recorded by Blue Note Records at Club La Marchal at Nostrand and President. The recording featured young trumpeters Freddie Hubbard and Lee Morgan “tearing up the stage.”

1965:  The Muse at 1530 Bedford Avenue near Lincoln Place became a gathering place where young jazz artists could improve techniques and interact with older neighborhood musicians. In 1978, bassist Reggie Workman became its director.  Many jazz artists had their first ensemble experience at the Muse.

1967:  Until it closed in 1985, The East at 10 Claver Place was a hub of radical Black activism and a legendary jazz venue that drew artists from near and far to perform. "Live at the East" included concerts and albums that reflected new fusions of East and West, embodying the spiritual, cultural, and political ideas of the era.

1969:  Composer Cal Massey, viewed by many music colleagues as a folk hero and mentor, was a devoted family man who turned his home at 235 Brooklyn Ave into a cultural center for jazz artists. His young children, including six-year old Waheeda Massey, performed in public jazz marathons.  

1971:  651 Arts, named for its former base at the Majestic Theater at 651 Fulton, was established to deepen appreciation and awareness of contemporary performing arts and culture rooted in the African diaspora. In 1997, 651 Arts initiated Lost Jazz Shrines, a national celebration of historic venues and communities that supported jazz.

1988:  Jazz 966 at 966 Fulton Street is a weekly Friday night jazz event, still going strong, with a mission to get older people swinging. Sponsored by the Fort Greene Senior Center, its programs create an affordable venue that encourages quality jazz performances and evoking Brooklyn’s rich jazz history.

1990:  Founded by community activist Viola Plummer, attorney Roger Wareham, and trumpeter and bandleader Ahmed Abdullah, Sista’s Place on Nostrand and Jefferson opened as a black-operated and oriented community house for jazz on John Coltrane’s birthday (September 23,1926).                 
1995:  Robert Myers founded Up Over Jazz on Flatbush Ave in recognition of the venues of an earlier era that provided jazz musicians with opportunities to explore new directions on stage without being confined by management. On its stage, emerging jazz artists such as pianist Robert Gaspar and saxophonist Marcus Strickland mastered their craft.

1996:  The late Dr. Mary Umolu, Torrie McCartney, and Michael Howard founded Medgar Evers College Jazzy Jazz Festival to give Crown Heights community members opportunities to hear weekly free-of-cost summer jazz concerts at 1638 Bedford at Crown Street. The 2015 series is dedicated to Randy Weston.

1999:  Central Brooklyn Jazz Consortium was organized as an amalgam of patrons, entertainment venues, community organizations, faith-based groups, and musicians to preserve, promote, and support live music in Central Brooklyn. The group’s signature programs are the Brooklyn Jazz Hall of Fame and an annual spring jazz festival.

2007:  Weeksville Heritage Center collects the Lost Jazz Shrines of Brooklyn: oral histories, music recordings, photos, research documents, publications, and jazz ephemera related to the jazz heritage of Central Brooklyn. The archive is currently housed at 158 Buffalo Street at the WHC 5th of July Resource Center for Self-Determination and Freedom.   

2011:  Birdel’s Radio & Records Shop opened on Fulton Street in 1944 before it moved to Nostrand Avenue.  The beloved venue’s dusty shelves still had 100,000 vinyl records, including many rare jazz 45s, when it closed in 2011. Nostrand Avenue between Atlantic and Fulton has been renamed Birdel’s Records Way.

2014:  Funk, God, Jazz, and Medicine: Black Radical Brooklyn, presented by Creative Time and Weeksville Heritage Center, included a sound installation at Utica and Fulton created by Otabenga Jones and the Central Brooklyn Jazz Consortium. It honored The East as a cultural hub for raising community awareness of black nationalism and pan-Africanism.

2015:  Founded in 2010 by Angela Weusi and her late husband, educator and activist Jitu Weusi, For My Sweet is a community center, art gallery, and performance venue at 1103 Fulton at Claver Place. Ras Chemash continues the Jazzy Monday Jam Session tradition with musicians, comedians, poets, and dancers.

Photo: Exterior of Kingston Lounge (on the corner of Kingston & Bergen, July 1, 2015).

Shared by Megan Goins-Diouf, former 5th of July Resource Center Manager and Reference Archivist

Adam Matthew Digital Portal: 'African American Communities'

We are pleased to announce that on October 21, 2015 Adam Matthew Digital will host a FREE webinar for a new digital studies portal, 'African American Communities’.

'African American Communities', available exclusively through online research and academic access, will contribute to a consortium of archives from across North America, purposefully selected by the digital publisher to narrate and chronicle the story of activist-based African American histories and collections from the 1950s through the 1980s.  'African American Communities' will bring together isolated and discrete collections in a comprehensive examination of the civil rights and black arts movements, articulated through the presentation and preservation of the various research collections, and authoritative essays penned by contributing scholars at: the Atlanta History Center; the Southern Historical Collection at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; the Richard J. Daley Library at the University of Illinois at Chicago; Washington University, St. Louis; The Newberry Library; and the 5th of July Resource Center for Self-Determination and Freedom at Weeksville Heritage Center. Through personal letters, historic and contemporary photographs, costumes and dress, archaeological artifacts and documents, newsletters, field notes, telegrams, and full digital oral history files, this portal will greatly enhance the availability of our collection to students, teachers, researchers and scholars.  

(Original) Constitution and By-laws of the Abyssinian Benevolent Daughters of Esther Association, printed in 1853 by John Zuille, a prominent African American printer in mid 19th-century Brooklyn, and one of the earliest documents recovered during the Weeksville community archaeological digs. 

(Original) Constitution and By-laws of the Abyssinian Benevolent Daughters of Esther Association, printed in 1853 by John Zuille, a prominent African American printer in mid 19th-century Brooklyn, and one of the earliest documents recovered during the Weeksville community archaeological digs. 

Visitors to the site will inaugurate the virtual transformation of the Historic Hunterfly Road House (and carefully crafted as not to compromise an actual visit to the historic homes) experience.  In addition, this outstanding resource will make the Weeksville archival collection the first authoritative research and scholarly digitized repository of emancipation-based histories.  The portal will host over forty 360 degree object captured profiles, over 200 high-res photographic of artifacts from the archaeological collection, historic maps, over 100 rare document scans, and over 400 photographs—high resolution color images that provide a photographic journal of the early stages of the Society for the Preservation of Weeksville and Bedford-Stuyvesant. Some of the objects captured for the purpose of the portal include: a large iron pot, baby shoes, tiny-type photographs, a rifle, clay pipes, boots and dolls.

‘African American Communities’ will host fully searchable text for all printed materials, and layered indexing and detailed metadata for all object and photographic data. The site will also publish over 1,000 photographic slides from the James G. Hurley Collection: the James G. Hurley Slide Collection contains photographic slides dating from 1967-1981. The slides document a period of rapid change in Bedford Stuyvesant, and cover the years during which older houses were being destroyed to make way for Lyndon B. Johnson's Model Cities Urban Renewal Initiative (an anti-poverty project).  The slides offer a visual chronology of the events and activities that would lead to the establishment of the Weeksville Society and the landmark designation of the Hunterfly Road Houses - and are the only known photographic capture of the changes in the community in that historic moment.

Key themes introduced in the Slide Collection include: rediscovery (aerial photography), black aviation, archaeological excavation, Project Weeksville, community involvement, and activism in urban renewal and planning; the slides will also familiarize researchers with Weeksville’s early stalwarts: Dolores McCullough, Patricia Johnson, William "Dewey" Harley, Barbara Jackson, Wilson A. Williams, Joan Maynard, Jim Hurley, William Carey, Rex Curry, and Marcia Goldman.

In this image: (from left to right) Joan Maynard, Marcia Goldman, Rex Curry, Unidentified man, and William Carey, taking a rest from leading a restoration tour of the Hunterfly Road Houses. James G. Hurley Slide Collection, 5th of July Resource Center for Self-Determination & Freedom, Weeksville Heritage Center. 

In this image: (from left to right) Joan Maynard, Marcia Goldman, Rex Curry, Unidentified man, and William Carey, taking a rest from leading a restoration tour of the Hunterfly Road Houses. James G. Hurley Slide Collection, 5th of July Resource Center for Self-Determination & Freedom, Weeksville Heritage Center. 

As shared by Robert Thompson to the author:

Rex Curry (image: left) was the Assistant Director of the Pratt Center for Community and Environmental Design.  Curry was instrumental in advising Weeksville on the houses (their stabilization), and was involved in the selection process of professional partners responsible for the restoration of the wooden-framed houses, including a long-lasting institutional relationship with Architect William Carey (image: right).  The Pratt Center played an instrumental role in the creation of Bed-Stuyvesant Restoration; Senator Robert F. Kennedy formed BedStuy Restoration after a historic visit to the neighborhood in 1966, led by Elsie Richardson, an early friend of Project Weeksville. 

For more information, and to sign up for the FREE webinar, please visit this link.


Written by Megan Goins-Diouf, Manager and Reference Archivist

With special thanks to James P. Hurley, Robert Thompson and Julia Keiser for their editorial support; and former Project Archivist Joyce L. Joseph for her archival expertise.


About Adam Matthew Digital

Adam Matthew Digital, an independent subsidiary within the SAGE Group, is the leading publisher of digital resources for libraries in the UK, North America, and China.


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