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December 16, 2021

Fascinating Vintage Photos of People Dancing at the Savoy Ballroom

The Savoy Ballroom was a large ballroom for music and public dancing located at 596 Lenox Avenue, between 140th and 141st Streets in the Harlem neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City. In operation from March 12, 1926, to July 10, 1958, the Savoy was one of many Harlem hot spots along Lenox, but it was the one to be called the “World's Finest Ballroom”.

The Savoy was popular from the start, and its ballroom remained lit every night of the week. It is estimated that the ballroom generated $250,000 in annual profit in its peak years from the late 1920s to the 1940s. Every year the ballroom was visited by almost 700,000 people.

Unlike many ballrooms such as the Cotton Club, the Savoy always had a no-discrimination policy. The clientele was 85% black and 15% white, although sometimes there was an even split. It participated in the 1939 New York World's Fair, presenting “The Evolution of Negro Dance”.

The ballroom went out of business in October 1958. Despite efforts to save it by Borough President Hulan Jack, Savoy Ballroom manager and co-owner Charles Buchanan, clubs, and organizations, the Savoy Ballroom was demolished for the construction of the Delano Village housing complex between March and April 1959.

Take a look at people merrily swinging and dancing at the ballroom through these fascinating vintage black and white photographs:

Couples dancing, 1940s.

Ella Fitzgerald performing on stage, 1940. (Gilles Petard)

A short man standing on a chair to get a better view of the dance floor, 1940s.

Lindy Hoppers swing dancing, 1941. (Charles Peterson)

Neon marquee, 1947.

People dancing to the sound of trombones, 1947.

Couple swing dancing, 1947.

Couple dancing, 1947.

People dancing, 1947.

Couple swing dancing, 1947.

Couple swing dancing, 1954.

Couple dancing, 1954.

Young people waiting to enter the dance hall, 1956. (Mario De Biasi)

Young people waiting to enter the dance hall, 1956. (Mario De Biasi)

Sunday evening, 1956. (Mario De Biasi) 

People dancing, 1958.


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