Opened in 1925 by Ed Small during a time of Prohibition, Small’s was a sort of hot and heavy speakeasy that downtowners in the know would come to for a night of Jazz, dancing and drink and played host to poets, artists, athletes, and entertainers from the. Small’s was widely known as one of Harlem’s famous nightclubs — one with elaborate floor shows and waiters who danced the Charleston while balancing trays of whiskey.
The video from 1933 at Small’s showcases the talent of a young Roy Eldridge is seen on the trumpet and Elmer Snowden on Banjo.
The club was one of the first to have an open door policy so the crowd also included Harlem’s brightest luminaries and faithful locals. The 1940’s image above is outside of Harlemites reviewing the upcoming talent performing at Small’s like Jimmy Smith.
Small’s stayed open until 1986 with a brief ownership by basketball great Wilt Chamberlain. Today, the Thurgood Marshall Academy has taken over the structure in which the Charleston was once famous. Instead of dancing feet, pancakes are being flipped at a house of pancakes that has moved into the street level space of the building. The Small’s Building is at 2294 Seventh Avenue/Adam Clayton Powell at 135th Street.
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