New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission to preserve 3 sites linked to the history of jazz

Wednesday, September 20, 2023
NYC to preserve 3 sites linked to jazz history
This past summer, New York City's Landmarks Preservation Commission voted to protect three historic sites. Entertainment Reporter Sandy Kenyon has more.

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- This past summer, New York City's Landmarks Preservation Commission voted to protect three historic sites linked to the history of jazz.

All three are linked to musicians who helped to shape this uniquely American form of music.

This is part of an official effort to celebrate the diversity of our city and preserve landmarks that are especially important to people of color.

One landmark is famous: Harlem's Hotel Cecil, home to Minton's Playhouse, where legendary jam sessions went down, and the style of jazz known as bebop was born.

Another that's been recognized is an apartment building in Washington Heights, but let's begin, not in Manhattan, but in Queens.

Today, it looks like just another old building in the Corona section, but for more than a decade magic was made there by America's jazz ambassador, Dizzy Gillespie.

Gillespie traveled all over the world, but he called this place home.

"The world recognized him as an important person and he came to live amongst us," said Fearonce G. La Lande, Vice President of the Corona East Elmhurst Historical Preservation Society.

La Lande worked to get the city's Landmarks Preservation Commission to recognize the significance of the Gillespie residence.

"And his good friend Louis Armstrong lived around the corner," La Lande said.

Armstrong's home is now a museum, and the significance of both extends beyond music.

"This was one of the places that African Americans could actually buy property," La Lande said.

In the 1940s, Queens was segregated.

"Other areas were red-lined, which means they would actually take maps, the real estate folks would actually take maps, and red line areas on the map that they would not sell to African Americans," La Lande said.

To be called a landmark, a property must be historically, culturally, or architecturally significant. 935 Saint Nicholas Avenue in Washington Heights qualifies on all counts.

Duke Ellington made what's been called the first music videos while he lived there, just a short distance away from where the style of modern jazz that came after him was born.

Now Minton's Playhouse and the other sites will be preserved.

"They reflect the degree to which the history of jazz is embodied in the very fabric of our city," said Sarah Carroll, NYC Landmarks Commissioner.

Our thanks to Landmarks Commissioner Carroll whose agency works with property owners to ensure that any changes to the outside of these structures does not take away from their historical importance. These are buildings that tell the story of our past.

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