An intimate photograph of the entrance of Smalls Paradise (often called Small’s Paradise and Smalls’ Paradise, and not to be confused with Smalls Jazz Club), a nightclub at (on the Chitlin Circuit) 2294½ Seventh Avenue at 135th Street, Harlem, New York, 1930, photograph.
Located in the basement (art deco entrance to the left step) at 2294 Seventh Avenue, it opened in 1925 and was owned by Ed Smalls. At the time of the Harlem Renaissance, Smalls Paradise was the only one of the well-known Harlem night clubs to be owned by an African-American and integrated.
On the outside of the marquee it reads:
Chas Johnson & Band No Cover
Become a Harlem insider - Sign-Up for our Weekly Newsletter!
The entertainment at Smalls Paradise was not limited to the stage; waiters danced the Charleston or roller-skated as they delivered orders to customers. Waiters were also known to vocalize during the club’s floor shows. Unlike most of the Harlem clubs which closed between 3-4 am, Smalls was open all night, offering a breakfast dance which featured a full floor show beginning at 6 am.
After 30 years as the owner of the night club, Ed Smalls sold the club to Tommy Smalls (no relation) in 1955. It was later owned by Wilt Chamberlain, and renamed Big Wilt’s Smalls Paradise. Many well known musicians, both white and African-American, – appeared at the club over the years, and often came to Smalls after their evening engagements to jam with the Smalls Paradise band. The club was responsible for promoting popular dances such as the Charleston, the Madison and the Twist. Smalls Paradise was the longest-operating club in Harlem before it closed in 1986.
Via photograph Harlem, New York. Adapted from source.