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 September 13, 2005
“Harlem of the West” (San Diego, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago)
Various western cities have claimed the title of "Harlem of the West" for their African-American communities.

San Diego's and San Francisco's claims stand out. Some people have referred to the south side of Chicago as "Harlem of the West," but the title there hasn't stuck.

1 April 1984, Los Angeles Times, "Page of Black History Crumbles; Hotel Douglas Was Known as Harlem of the West" by Paul Parker, pg. SD A1:
In the segregated days following World War I, the black-owned Hotel Douglas - known as the Harlem of the West - was a kind of racial demilitarized zone.

There San Diegans, black and white, could go for entertainment, to dance and eat "soul food" to the strains of jazz or "boogie-woogie" music.

24 October 1984, Los Angeles Times, pg. SD A2:
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced a $3.7-million grant Tuesday to help build an apartment building on the site of San Diego's old Hotel Douglas. The downtown hotel, known as the Harlem of the West in the 1930s and '40s, will be razed and replaced by a 192-unit project that will include 40 units for low-income tenants. Between 2nd and 3rd avenues and Market and G streets, it is to be called Market Street Square Apartments.

12 March 1995, New York Times, pg. A9:
A church, a funeral parlor and a house were the only buildings to survive demolition in the early 1960's, when the Acorn project was built on 200 acres in West Oakland, the heart of what was once a vibrant African-American community - the "Harlem of the West."

28 October 1996, Washington Post, pg. D2:
After graduation from Mineola Colored High School in 1951, the 17-year-old Brown made his break, joining a wayward uncle, Itsie Collins, in San Francisco. Itsie ran a gambling emporium in the city's Fillmore District, a neighborhood that, after a considerable black migration during the war years, had pretty much become the "Harlem of the West."

1 January 1998, American Visions, pg. 14:
Los Angeles was the obvious next step for the Monk Institute, given the music industry's acquired taste for films with jazz soundtracks and the history connected with Central Avenue. (Running from downtown L.A. to Watts. Central Avenue was the economic lifeblood of the black community and the Harlem of the West Coast.)

1 August 1999, San Francisco Chronicle, "The Fillmore, In Good Times and Bad; Documentary recalls once-swinging neighborhood's checkered past" by Sylvia Rubin, Sunday Datebook, pg. 40:
In the documentary, San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown reminisces about the neighborhood he called the Harlem of the West: "People would get dressed, I mean, like, to kill. Stacy Adams shoes with the white strings showing that had been highly cleaned up with Clorox, in which the stitches could be seen, very well-polished . . . great- looking jewelry on the women, fur coats. . . . Believe me, you didn't go in jeans."

25 April 2000, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Once, part of San Diego was 'Harlem of the West'; Museum urged on site of black business zone" by Ronald W. Powell, pg. A1:

A large swath of downtown San Diego in the 1920s and 1930s bustled with black business and society, resembling New York City's storied black mecca of Harlem.

This African-American sector stretched along Market Street from west of the Gaslamp Quarter to East Village and encompassed much of the property where the Padres are building their ballpark.

Black-owned businesses were so prevalent that, in the heyday of the local district, which one merchant dubbed the "Harlem of the West," African-Americans could purchase almost all their goods and services from someone of their own race.

4 February 2001, San Diego Union-Tribune, "New Museum to recall city's bygone black entrepreneurs," pg. B2:
Because it served as a black business center, it became known as the Harlem of the West, a reference to the storied black community in New York City.

Securing the museum site is a major step for the society, which was formed about a year ago. Huff and other organizers plan to make it a cultural force in the city.

Its first San Diego Jazz Parade and Harlem of the West Fest, an outdoor music, arts and culture festival, is scheduled for July 20- 21 on Market Street.

1 June 2005, Essence, "Beat Street" by Jeanette Valentine, pg. 176:
THE LEGENDS: San Francisco's Fillmore District, called the Harlem of the West, was a hotbed of jazz activity in the forties and fifties. Clubs like Jimbo's Bop City hosted big names such as Count Basie and Ella Fitzgerald and local jazz musicians, including trumpeter Alien Smith, alto saxophonist Pony Poindexter and bassist Skippy Warren. To accommodate growing crowds in the 1960's and 1970's, music producer Bill Graham built the Fillmore Auditorium. A frequent Fillmore performer, Sylvester "Sly Stone" Steward made his mark on the music scene with The Family Stone band. Over the years artists ranging from the Temptations to Erykah Badu to Wyclef Jean have played the still-thriving hall.

Posted by Barry Popik
Neighborhoods • (0) Comments • Tuesday, September 13, 2005 • Permalink