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Palm Tavern
47th Street History

47th Street was Bronzeville's Downtown

Jazz Institute of Chicago's "Bronzeville Conversation: 47th Street and South Park Boulevard - Bronzeville's Downtown"

"47th Street, especially as I remember it as a young girl, was alive with Black businesses. A "Mecca." I remember the Palm Tavern, where visiting celebrities and stars made their first stop to eat and drink and meet friends. It was the gathering place. I met Lena Horne and her father, Teddy Horne, a "sportsman" from Philadelphia there. She was young and not so famous then. I also met J. Levert Kelly who was the colorful President of the Waiters and Bartenders Union."

"47th Street was the street of my life! I loved it, and everything that was happening there. When I went into the army, I often thought about what was happening on the street. It was the Black community's downtown. If there was anything better than that, I didn't want to know about it."

"On a spring or summer day 47th and South Park [now Martin Luther King Drive] was the urban equivalent of a village square. People used to say, "If you're trying to find a certain Negro in Chicago, just stand on the corner of 47th and South Park long enough and you're bound to see him."

"The Regal and the Metropolitan Theaters were not Black owned, but the famous Black Bands and Entertainers appeared there including Sammy Davis Jr., Valada Snow, and the Berry Brothers (dancers), who had the most fabulous orchid-colored Dusenberg car Chicago had ever seen-straight from Hollywood. Duke and Basie, Coleman Hawkins, Earl Hines and Louis Armstrong, whom I called "Uncle Louis," played there. Also the great Josephine Baker, Bojangles (Bill Robinson), Johnny Mathis, Mr. "B" (Billy Eckstine), Erskine Tate, Erskine Hawkins, Cozy Cole, Benny Carter, and Dizzy Gillespie. I could go on and on - Lester Young and, lest I forget, the great dancers "Tip, Tap and Toe," who were the first Blacks to appear on the Chesterfield Hour in New York. When in Chicago, they appeared mostly at the Chicago Theater, although they eventually did play the Regal. Sarah Vaughan "the Divine Sarah" was there and Duke Ellington showcased Herb Jeffries. These great musicians, singers, and dancers stopped in the Palm Tavern and patronized the Jones Bros. Ben Franklin Store."

For more history on the people of Bronzeville, click here to visit the Jazz Institute of Chicago website.

"Black Metropolis: Study of Negro Life in a Northern City" by St. Clair Drake and Horace R. Cayton from 1962 Edition, but book was first published in 1945.

"On a spring or summer day this spot, "47th and South Park," is the urban equivalent of a village square."
"This is Bronzeville's central shopping district, where rents are highest and Negro merchants compete fiercely with whites for the choicest commercial spots. A few steps away from the intersection is the "largest Negro-owned department store in America," attempting to challenge the older and more experienced white retail establishments across the street. At an exclusive "Eat Shoppe" just off the boulevard, you may find a Negro Congressman or ex-Congressman dining at your elbow, or former heavyweight champion Jack Johnson, beret pushed back on his head, chuckling at the next table; in the private dining room there may be a party of civic leaders, black and white, planning reforms. A few doors away, behind the Venetian blinds of a well appointed tavern [reference to the Palm Tavern], the "big shots" of the sporting world crowd the bar on one side of the house, while the respectable "elite" takes its beers and "sizzling steaks" in the booths on the other side."

"Chicago: Destination for the Great Migration" African-American Mosaic, Library of Congress Online Exhibits

"Many of the black migrants who came to Chicago between 1910 and 1930 started businesses and became entrepreneurs. The "Perfect Eat" Shop, a restaurant on 47th street near South Park, is an example of such a business. It was owned by Ernest Morris, seen standing in the rear of the restaurant."

Interview with Timuel Black, Chicago Historian

Here is Tim's quote about 47th Street and South Parkway [now King Drive]

T: Tell us your memories of 47th Street.

Timuel Black: Oh, 47th Street was where it all happened. 47th Street, you'd stand on the corner of 47th Street and South Park and if you stayed there, that was what they said, if you stayed there long enough almost anybody you knew in Chicago would come past there sometime during the day. It was the hub. It was the center of our community. And almost -- we had a department store; we had entertainment up and down the street; we had places to eat, nice restaurants; we had places to -- there was just lots and lots of things going on on 47th Street. But 47th and South Park was the major focal point. And we had the jitney cabs running up and down the street and they would stop there because that's where they would put most of their passengers on. I saw Joe Louis the first -- I mean, the great heavy weight championship -- champion there. There used to be a gym there that he would train at. So 47th Street was -- say, Let's go to 47th Street. That was --Let's go have some fun."

Timuel Black is a well known and respected historian. He has been a high school teacher of history and social studies at DuSable HS, Dunbar HS and Hyde Park HS in Chicago, Dean of Wright Junior College in Chicago, Vice President of Olive Harvey City College in Chicago, Director of Community Affairs for Chicago City Colleges, and Professor of anthropology, cultural anthropology, sociology and history at Harold Washington College.

Palm Tavern is the Heart and Spirit of 47th Street