Tuesday, January 6, 2015


                                                     Top photo courtesy NYPL
An archival photo looking north at 137th Street on 7th Avenue circa 1941 shows The Renaissance Ballroom as it once stood as a cultural destination for the blocks around Strivers Row.  This south end of the block seems to be more were the commercial spaces were located and the ballroom was within the larger structure with the dome roof on the opposite side (which is still intact). An interesting point to note is that during the main years of the Harlem Renaissance, the rebirth of black culture was known as the New Negro Movement and it was not until after 1930 that the term Harlem Renaissance was used.  So in a sense, The Renny was not only a hub for cultural events such as jazz or the home court for the first African-American basketball team called the Renaissance Big Five, but also a predecessor in naming uptown's great historic decade.

Now there are over 3,181 signatures signed up on a petition to save Harlem's last big ballroom space of the Renaissance decade from the demolition.  Those interested in learning more about this local landmark and signing the petition can go to the Change.org site: LINK


  1. Great historical picture! Seeing the block south of the Renny (btwn 136 and 137) surprised me. One set of those columns is still intact, but they look so out of place that I had always assumed they were a more modern addition. Thank you for sharing!

  2. The archival photo really takes me back. I remember in the late 60's that the Chinese Restaurant that was upstairs on the 2nd floor was one of the few, very few Chinese Restaurants in Harlem. That "Chop Suey" sign was up until some time in the early 80's, maybe 1982. That sign has gone the way of the "combination plates" that were so popular in Chinese Restaurants in those days. This one and Len Fong's on West 145th & B'way were the popular Harlem Chinese Restaurants with Len Fong's being the most popular.

  3. CONTEXT!... Your historic photo is great, its architecture actually conveys contextually an aspect of Harlem's unique history. For example, the columned building to the left, named originally the Kaiser-Whilhelm was built in 1889 by Oscar Hammerstein,l and 100 years latter it was one of the first affordable housing rehabs in Harlem. Around the corner on 137th stands the historic Mother AME Zion Church, and the former "Colored" Women's YMCA . One block to the south on 7th Avenue lived the legendary African American entertainer Bert Williams. in context with these buildings and nearby Abyssinian Church and Strivers' Row it's ever more obvious what a significant role the Renaissance Ballroom building plays in conveying the story of Harlem's history, nee America's unique cultural history. - John Reddick