Fri, 15 November 2013
The Hotel Theresa is considered a genuine (if under-appreciated) Harlem treasure, both for its unique architecture and its special place in history as the hub for African-American life in the 1940s and 50s.
The luxurious apartment hotel was built by a German lace manufacturer to cater to a wealthy white clientele. But almost as soon as the final brick was laid, Harlem itself changed, thanks to the arrival of thousands of new black residents from the South. Harlem, renown the world over for the artists and writers of the Harlem Renaissance and its burgeoning music scene, was soon home mostly those who identified as black. But many of the businesses here refused to serve black patrons, or at least certainly made them unwelcome.
The Theresa changed its policy in 1940 and soon its lobby was filled with famous athletes, actresses and politicians, many choosing to live at the Hotel Theresa over other hotels in Manhattan. The hotel's relative small size made it an interesting concentration of America's most renown black celebrities.
In this podcast, I give you a tour of this glamorous scene, from the corner bar to the penthouse, from the breakfast table of Joe Louis to the crazy parties of Dinah Washington.