Friday, August 3, 2012

The abandoned Harlem Renaissance Ballroom

A vital piece of Harlem's history, the Harlem Renaissance Ballroom and Casino was built between 1920 and 1923 and was a black owned and operated center of culture, the only upscale reception hall available to African Americans at the time. The two-story entertainment complex included a 900-seat movie theater, a ballroom, a space for basketball games, dances and meetings. In 1923 its ballroom became the home court of the New York Renaissance: an all-black professional basketball team and one of the dominant basketball teams of the 1920s and 1930s.

Following each game, a dance took place where the crowd would dance in the rhythms of the Lindy Hop, Charleston and Jive. The 900-seat theater first showed silent movies, apparently with stage acts, but was soon converted to talkies. Renaissance, was the "setting for all of Harlem’s most important parties," according to author Michael Henry Adams, but by 1979 the complex had closed down and "by the 1990s it had so deteriorated that it was used as a setting for Spike Lee’s crack den from hell in the movie Jungle Fever."

The Renaissance closed in 1979, and the Abyssinian Development Corporation bought it in 1991. There were plans for restoration of the ballroom but they never went forward. The building was left abandoned and fell in decay. In 2007 the nonprofit development company which owns the building decided to demolish the theatre structure and built a 13-story apartment house, saving the casino’s exterior and expanding the casino and its ballroom into a larger community space. Currently investors for the project are pursued while the building remains in a poor condition.

SEE ALSO: More abandoned places in New York // More abandoned places in the United States //  LIST OF ALL DESERTED PLACES 
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The Renaissance Theater and Casino in 1936 and today. 




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