Thursday, February 12, 2015


Tillie Fripp was a roadhouse cook in Philly back in 1926 who quit her job and ended up being a key figure that attracted folks uptown during the Jazz Age.  With only $1.98 in her pocket, the young woman was invited to a sleepy block on West 133rd Street between Lenox and 7th Avenue which only had one notable club called The Nest.  Miss Fripp ended up getting a job as a cook for a lesser known speakeasy in exchange for free rent but soon became the main attraction.  With her personal approach with customers along with great platter combinations such as ham and eggs or chicken and waffles, customer soon flocked to 133rd Street in droves late at night.

Even with being the most famous cook in Harlem, Tillie would treat all of her customers equally.  Celebrities who demanded service to their cars waiting out on the block of what became known as Jungle Alley would eventually have to wait on the sidewalk like every other customer.  Soon the talented cook and host made enough money to quit the unremarkable gin house she started in and set up a shop next door at 148 West 143rd Street and called it Tillie's Chicken Shack.

This all in turn helped other successful speakeasies to open up on the block which became a destination because of a humble cook who took a 2 week vacation to Harlem and never looked back.  Soon other branches of Tillie's would open uptown (at 227 Lenox in 1932) and today eateries such as the Red Rooster or the forthcoming Streetbird Rotisserie have followed the same path as this remarkable woman.

Check out the full 1932 map of famous Harlem jazz spots in our past post: LINK

1 comment:

  1. I love this map!
    It was drawn by the African American cartoonist E. Simms Campbell, who was a great buddy of the "Minnie the Moocher" and "Hi-De Ho" entertainer Cab Calloway. The map is full of uniquely Harlem commentary, including card playing cops in their 135th Street station house asking each other, "what's the number." However, despite his comic insights on Harlem life, Campbell was most noted for the trademark upper-crust white businessman and showgirl cartoons he produced for Esquire Magazine in the 1940's and 50's. As for the map, it was produced for a short lived magazine and I've only seen two original copies. The last one on view at this year's Winter Antique Show for $35,000! - John Reddick