Tuesday, June 27, 2023


There have been a couple of stories on the old Silver Rail Bar just below 125th Street on 8th Avenue in the past but Bespoke readers are the ones who have revealed the forgotten LGBT history at some of Harlem's establishments in 70s, 80s or 90s.  This block would eventually be demolished for the big glassy Harlem USA complex but before that happened, 2321 8th Avenue became Andre's which appears to haves been the spot for the gay community to socialize.

Andre's filled-in where the Silver Rail left off and did very well. Another gay bar on 125th St. was known as Jay's and lets not forget the Big Apple. All three catered to a particular sub-set within the black gay culture of Harlem. The Big Apple catered to older, middle-aged gay black men while Andre's was known for its demimonde and Jays catered to everyone else including hustlers.  

We visited each site this week to see what they look like in 2016.  Anyone with more details on the actual dates they were open should comment accordingly or contact: harlembespoke@gmail.com
The archival photo from the Museum of the city of New York shows the west side of 8th Avenue between 124th and 125th Street back in 1948 and the Silver Rail Bar can be seen at center.  Apparently everything was intact in the 90s but by 1996, the $56 million Harlem USA mall complex would cause the demise of the old buildings on the block.  Silver Rail was replaced by Andre's which was one of the notable LGBT spots in the neighborhood but would eventually transformed into Showman's Jazz bar.  Showman's moved a little further west on 125th Street and is still around today but we have yet to find a photo of Andre's at its height of popularity.   Can anyone advise on the actually timeline?
The other bar mentioned was Jay's located at 307 West 125th Street which was literally half a block up on the north side of 125th Street.  This old tenement building located just west of FDB has a dollar store and a braid shop upstairs today and sits next to the Bingo hall where quite a few Vogue balls were held in the 80s and 90s.  There is not much about Jay's to be found online so any information on the time period that the establishment was open would greatly be appreciated.
The Big Apple jazz club debuted at 2300 7th Avenue back in 1934 and the facade would remain at corner of 135th Street until demolition in 2006 to make way for a Popeye's.  Apparently the club was open for half a century but nobody really has a date on when it shuttered.  Based on past blog comments in regards to recent gay bars in Harlem, the Big Apple might have been one of the establishments open up until 80s or even the 90s.

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