Savoy Ballroom: “The Home Of Happy Feet”
Photo: Awning of the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem, New York.
The Savoy Ballroom (1926-1958), famously known as “the home of happy feet,” was a world renowned dance ballroom in Harlem, New York. The “world’s finest ballroom” scaled a full city block, from 140th to 141st streets on Harlem’s Lenox Avenue, and was two story’s high, it’s signature marquee stretching well over the sidewalk and nearby stores.
Founded by Moe Gale, a Jewish man, and managed by Charles Buchanan, a Black man, the Savoy from its inception was the first and only integrated dance ballrooms in the whole of New York. On the “track,” its block long dance floor, working class African-American Harlemites and wealthy whites from downtown would lindy hop, jitterbug jive, and rhumboogie the night away under the same lavish cut-glass chandelier.
Gif: 1920s Couple doing the Lindy Hop.
The Savoy Ballroom attracted the talents of jazz and bebop greats like Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Art Blakley, Teddy Hill, Johnny Hodges and Thelonious Monk. So great was the dance scene at the Savoy Ballroom, some of the clubs most talented dancers ended up performing in theaters across the world and in feature films.
Photo: Hodges, Johnny Savoy Ballroom (Lenox Avenue, Harlem, New York), Duke Ellington Collection, Archives Center, National Museum of American History.
The drag of the Great Depression and technological advancements in radios and record players made dancing at home and at smaller and cheaper venues more popular. The Savoy closed in 1958 and demolished in 1959 to make way for the Delano Village housing development, known today as Savoy Park. A commemorative plaque was erected in the Savoy’s memory in 2002. The ceremony was attended by swing legends Frankie Manning and Norma Miller, and enthusiast from around the world.
Photo: Plaque commemorating the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem, NYC., Lukeholladay.