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 October 03, 2004
Sugar Hill
Most people know this from the "Sugar Hill Gang." "Sugar Hill" is the African-American area around Harlem where life is sweet.


Wikipedia: Sugar Hill, Manhattan
Sugar Hill is a neighborhood in the northern part of Hamilton Heights, which itself is a sub-neighborhood of Harlem, a neighborhood in the New York City borough of Manhattan. The neighborhood is defined by 155th Street to the north, 145th Street to the south, Edgecombe Avenue to the east, and Amsterdam Avenue to the west. The name originated in the 1920s, when the area became a popular place to live for wealthy African Americans.

Named to identify the "sweet life" in Harlem, it was a popular residential area of rowhouses for wealthy African Americans during the Harlem Renaissance, including W. E. B. Du Bois, Thurgood Marshall, Adam Clayton Powell, and Duke Ellington. Langston Hughes wrote about its relative affluence in relation to Harlem in his essay "Down and Under in Harlem" published in the The New Republic in 1944.

Sugar Hill was made a municipal historic district by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission in 2000. It is also a National Registered Historic Place.

Rap group The Sugarhill Gang and rap record label Sugar Hill Records pay homage to the neighborhood in their names.

Sugar Hill is mentioned in the lyrics to the jazz standard "Take the A Train" by Billy Strayhorn. It is also referred to by rapper AZ's "Sugar Hill" on his album Doe or Die.

23 October 1929, New York (NY) Amsterdam News, "Is This Really Harlem?", pg. 9:
But Strivers' row is now getting a run for its money by "sugar Hill" at Edgecombe and St. Nick. THis spot has become fashionable since Jules Bledsoe moved in. Rents went sky-high!

2 August 1930, The Afro-American (Baltimore), pg. 11, col. 5:
So they went up one street and down the other; up to 155th Street and back down to 110th; Lenox Avenue, St, Nicholas Avenue, Fifth Avenue, 135th Street and the curbstone market on Eighth Avenue; the palatial apartments on "Sugar Hill" and the mansions of the elite on West 139th Street.

26 December 1931, New York Times, pg. 15:
SUGAR HILL, a musical show in two acts of Negro life in Harlem. Book by Charles Tazewell, lyrics by Jo Trent and music by Jimmy Johnson. Settings by Theodore Kahn; costumes by Mahieu; produced by the Moveing Day Co., Inc. At the Forrest Theatre.
(...)
On those occasions when they do wander in, first as a couple of icemen and then as a couple of janitors, things look up on Sugar Hill, which is represented to be the cream - or at least the cafe au lait - of the Harlem residential district.

21 September 1933, Washington Post, pg. 20:
Sugar Hill, a neighborhoood not far from the shadow of Columbia University, is where the wealthy elite of Harlem live. In that section dwell Ethel Waters, Bill Robinson, Cab Calloway, Duke Ellington, Countee Cullen and other outstanding members of their race.

10 August 1934, Los Angeles Times, pg. 19:
The lyrics (To "Harlem Heabn'n" - ed.), by Clarence Muse, are of the same caliber and follow the life of a Harlem Negro from the gutters of New York to "Sugar Hill" and back again.

25 September 1935, Chicago Daily Tribune, pg. 21:
(Boxer Joe - ed.) Louis, after a brisk walk along the Harlem river speedway following the weighing-in ceremonies, slept most of the late afternoon in the 6th floor apartment of Mrs. Lucille Armstead, which overlooks upper Harlem and the Yankee stadium from the bluffs of Harlem's Sugar hill.

25 January 1938, Chicago Daily Tribune, pg. 15:
"Sugar Hill" Is
Satirical Play
of Harlem Life
"SUGAR HILL"
A comedy by Matthew Matthews, with incidental songs by Donal Heywood; given in the Studebaker theater Jan. 24, 1938, with an all-colored cast.

(OCLC WorldCat catalog)
Title: Black, brown, and beige
Author(s): Ellington, Duke, 1899-1974. ; Ellington, Duke,; 1899-1974. ; (Performer - prf); Sherrill, Joya,; 1927- ; (Performer - prf)
Publication: Camden, N.J. :; RCA Victor,
Year: 1940s
Description: 2 sound discs :; analog, 78 rpm ;; 12 in.
Language: English
Music Type: Jazz
Standard No: Publisher: DC 39; RCA Victor; 28-0415; RCA Victor; 28-0416; RCA Victor; 28-0413A; RCA Victor; 28-0413B; RCA Victor; 28-0414A; RCA Victor; 28-0414B; RCA Victor; LCCN: 2003-580714
Contents: Work song -- Come Sunday -- The blues (Joya Sherrill, vocal refrain) -- Black, brown, and beige -- Three dances. West Indian dance ; Emancipation celebration ; Sugar Hill penthouse (Beige!).

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityNeighborhoods • (0) Comments • Sunday, October 03, 2004 • Permalink