Wednesday, June 13, 2012

☞ REMEMBER: The Hamilton Lodge Balls

The Rockland Palace up on 155th Street no longer stands today but that venue was a testament to time where the LGBT community was highly visible in Harlem.  Back in the Harlem Renaissance year's of the 1920s, The Hamilton Lodge No. 710 of the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows held the Masquerade and Civic Ball which by 1937 attracted a record 8,000 guests to the annual event. The audience was mostly black and reportedly traveled from all over the city and the east coast to see the grand spectacle uptown at 280 West 155th Street.  This location would later host more religious activity in the following decades and then would eventually be demolished.  A parking lot stands on the site today and little is left of the grand palace that spawned uptown's unique cultural phenomenon but smaller balls have continued to be part of the LGBT community in Harlem for decades after.


  1. Wow, thank you for the photo of the Rockland Palace. Before it was lost to a pile of bricks, the Jewel Box Revue or a similar show performed on weekends, also it was a dance hall. Where soul singing groups performed as the 1970's came to a close and the soul singing groups slowly died out as Rap started taking over the music industry. After it was no longer booked for dances, it became a Roller Skating Rink, where gun violence became the norm. After several murder's at the Skating Rink, it closed forever, torn down and was a vacant lot before it became the parking lot it is today. It was a popular place and was fun at the time I attended events there. (Can't remember the interior).

  2. The Communist Party held rallies there with music by the likes of Duke Ellington and Cab Calloway in the 1930s--the Rockland was also the site of religious meetings and revivals by the likes of Father Divine. And Paul Robeson played sem-pro basketball there when it was known as the Manhattan Casino for St. Christopher’s, which was the team of the St. Philip’s boys club (also on the team were two brothers, Clarence “Little Fat” Jenkins and Harold “Legs” Jenkins, both of whom would go on to fame as professional athletes).

    The Manhattan Casino was, by the way, the favored venue of James Reese Europe's bands before WWI, and one could even make a case for it being a birthplace of jazz, since it was where the proto-jazz group called The Frogs held one of their earliest gigs.