Ridge Avenue Stroll through Philly’s Jazz History

All That Philly Jazz Director Faye Anderson leads a walking tour, “Ridge Avenue Stroll through Philly’s Jazz History.”

Ridge Avenue Stroll Cover

In the wake of the Great Migration, the demographics of North Philadelphia’s Sharswood neighborhood changed. The new residents fueled the growth of commercial establishments along Ridge Avenue that catered to African Americans. From the Blue Note (15th Street) to the Crossroads Bar (23rd Street), Ridge Avenue was a jazz corridor and entertainment district.

Ridge Avenue Entertainment District - Satellite

Ridge Avenue was also a safe haven from the indignities of racial discrimination. African American entertainers performed in Center City at places such as the Earle Theater and Ciro’s, but they were not allowed to stay in downtown hotels. The Negro Motorist Green Book helped black travelers navigate Jim Crow laws in the South and racial segregation in the North. Published from 1936 to 1966, the “Green Book” listed hotels, restaurants, night clubs, beauty parlors and other services that enabled African Americans to “vacation without aggravation.”

Green Book - NMAAHC

Our stroll will begin at the legendary Blue Note. We walk around the corner and stop at the Nite Cap. We then head north up Ridge Avenue, stopping at the Bird Cage Lounge and Don-El Records.

Don-El Records - 2020 Ridge Avenue

Moving along, we check out the Hotel LaSalle which was listed in the “Green Book” and advertised in the NAACP’s Crisis magazine.

Hotel LasSalle Collage - 4.30.17

We then stop by V-Tone Records, the LaSalle Beauty Parlor and Butler’s Paradise Café (listed in the “Green Book”).

Next stops: Ridge Cotton Club (listed in the “Green Book”) and the Pearl Theatre.

Pearl Theater

The highlight of the walk is the Checker Café, one of the last vestiges of the Ridge Avenue entertainment district.

2125 Ridge Avenue - 2007

We end our stroll at Mr. Chip’s Bar and Irene’s Café (listed in the “Green Book”).

Mr. Chip's Bar - Irene's Cafe Collage

We talk and walk the streets where future jazz legends such as Pearl Bailey, Clifford Brown, Cab Calloway, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Philly Joe Jones, Charlie Parker and Nancy Wilson once roamed. For more information, email Faye and greenbookphl@gmail.com.

10 thoughts on “Ridge Avenue Stroll through Philly’s Jazz History”

  1. Hola. Quisiera saber, si es posible, dónde estaba el Cafe Society y qué pasó con ese lugar. Gracias y saludos!

  2. Viewing the new Miles Davis film brought to mind a night in 1965 or 66. I attended Bishop Eustace in Pennsauken. I was 17 or 18. My girlfriend Joan Quinlan of Haddon Heights and I drove to a jazz club to see Miles Davis. It was a small cellar club, maybe in the area of Broad and Market. We had a drink or two and listened first to Satin Doll. I don’t recall any other numbers, but I remember Miles lightly scolding the crowd for talking as he started the set, stopping cold and saying a raspy “I’m blowin’ my horn.” No noise after that. We thought we were cool.

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