Savoy Ballroom

Harlem, New York, New York, USA

Closed 1958, demolished 1959

The Disappointed Tourist: Savoy Ballroom, Ellen Harvey, 2021. Oil and acrylic on Gessoboard, 18 x 24″ (46 x 61 cm). Photograph: Etienne Frossard.

I used to watch footage of dancers at the Savoy being thrown high in the air. As a biracial child I loved the idea of Blacks and Whites having a place to be free together during segregation. Everyone seemed to be in ecstasy! I wish I had a time machine. Angela E.

The Savoy Ballroom (known as “The World’s Finest Ballroom” and “Home of Happy Feet”) was a large luxurious ballroom located on Lenox Avenue in Harlem. It was opened and owned by white entrepreneur Jay Faggen and Jewish businessman Moe Gale and managed by African-American business man and civic leader Charles Buchanan. Unlike most ballrooms, the Savoy always had a no-discrimination policy. It was so popular that the floor had to be replaced every three years and it was considered the birth place of the Lindy Hop style of dancing. It was immortalized in Chick Webb’s big band classic “Stompin’ at the Savoy” in 1934. A teenage Ella Fitzgerald was a band vocalist at the Savoy. The ballroom closed in October 1958 and was demolished to make way for the Delano Village housing complex in 1959. A commemorative plaque for the Savoy Ballroom was unveiled by on Lenox Avenue in 2002 by members of the Savoy’s legendary Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers.