Landmarks Designates Three Buildings Tied to Jazz History

935 St. Nicholas Avenue. Image Credit: Google Maps.

On June 27, 2023, the Landmarks Preservation Commission voted to designate three buildings connected to jazz history. The buildings are 105-19 37th Avenue in Corona, Queens, 935 St. Nicholas Avenue in Washington Heights, and the Hotel Cecil & Minton’s Playhouse building at 206 West 118th Street in Harlem. 

105-19 37th Avenue – Dizzy Gillespie Residence

The three-story multi-family Colonial Revival style building at 105-19 37th Avenue was once home to jazz legend John Birks “Dizzy” Gillespie. Gillespie, famous for his contributions to the growth of Afro-Cuban jazz and the development of the bebop style, owned and lived in the building for 14 years. He moved to New Jersey in 1966 but retained ownership of the building until 1985. While the building’s front and side doors and some windows have been replaced, the building generally remains the same visually from when Gillespie lived there.

Hotel Cecil & Minton’s Playhouse Building

The Hotel Cecil and Minton’s Playhouse building. Image Credit: LPC.

The Hotel Cecil & Minton’s Playhouse Building located at 206 West 118th Street is a five-story Renaissance Revival style building that was completed in 1896. The hotel’s nightclub operated for over 30 years, opening between1938 and 1939. The house band played popular songs and featured many iconic guest singers and soloists including Charlie Christian, Roy Eldridge, Lester Young, Coleman Hawkins, and Ben Webster. Artists like Dizzy Gillespie had the opportunity to use Minton’s to experiment with the bebop jazz style. The club continued to host many jazz performers through the 1950s and 60s. The hotel was damaged in a fire in 1974 and Minton’s closed. Currently, the building features 89 residential units. The building reopened for supportive housing in 1988. The building’s first floor is occupied by the Cecil Harlem restaurants and a jazz club restaurant named after Minton’s.

935 St. Nicholas Avenue – Duke Ellington and Nobel Lee Sissle Residence

935 St. Nicholas Avenue is a Gothic Revival style brick and limestone apartment building completed in 1915. Jazz legends Duke Ellington and Noble Sissle lived at 935 St. Nicholas Avenue for decades. Ellington composed many iconic songs while living at 935 St. Nicholas Avenue including “Sophisticated Lady,” “Stain Doll,” and “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore.” Ellington composed over 3,000 songs over the course of his career. Ellington lived at 935 St. Nicholas Avenue from 1939 to 1961. 

Sissle served as a member of the 369th regimental band, part of the “Harlem Hell Fighters” in World War I. His musical with Eubie Blake, Shuffle Along, was the first successful Broadway musical to feature an all-Black cast. Sissle founded the Negro Actors Guild of America and served as president from 1937 to 1957. He lived at 935 St. Nicholas Avenue from 1950 to 1972. The building retains a high degree of integrity from when it was built and is currently on the National Register of Historic Places. 

To learn more about these locations, click here.

105-19 37th Avenue. Image Credit: Google Maps.

Landmarks Chair Sarah Carroll stated, “Today’s designations reflect the degree to which the history of Jazz is embodied in the very fabric of New York City and recognize the musical pioneers who were drawn to live and work here by the culture of creativity that has always defined our city. The story of Jazz is also the story of the Black community, who built tight-knit communities and cultural institutions in the face of racial discrimination.  I’m proud that the Commission has chosen to honor this history and thrilled that these landmarks will be preserved for future generations to come.”

Maria Torres-Springer, Deputy Mayor for Housing, Economic Development, and Workforce, stated, “The thoughtful recognition of Jazz in New York City and the truly special artists that made the city their home is celebrated today through the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s determination. These spaces welcomed Black musicians and allowed them to hone their craft, producing iconic music that lives on today and defines the 24-7 New York experience.”

By: Veronica Rose (Veronica is the CityLaw fellow and a New York Law School graduate, Class of 2018.)




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