133rd Street, Harlem, 1920’s (video)

Thirteen.org just took a trip to 133rd Street in Harlem for their City Concealed series, and below is their video on the early Jazz scene there.Particularly interesting is their visit to The Nest, which was housed in the basement of 169 West 133rd Street:

The Nest, which lies padlocked behind the doors of an abandoned building on a quiet residential block, is arguably one of New York City’s greatest unsung cultural landmarks. The development of jazz as an artistic movement in the city is linked to this spot, which opened on October 18, 1923, in the basement of what was then a barbecue club. In its heyday, during the height of Prohibition, the Nest hosted some of the most popular names in Harlem. It also attracted super star patrons like Mae West. Eventually more speakeasies opened in basements along the same block as the Nest, fostering a culture of clandestine drinking and improvised performance for a mixed audience of black and white club goers alike.

The video is called Swing Street; Billie Holiday is quoted as saying 133rd Street was “the real swing street, like 52nd Street later tried to be.” (Read more about her introduction to the scene on 133rd Street on page 37 of Lady Sings The Blues.)

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