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People, Locations, Episodes

Tue, 03.29.1921

The Sunset Café (Chicago) Opens

Sunset Café (1923 flyer)

*The Sunset Café is celebrated on this date in 1921.  Also known as The Grand Terrace Café, the Sunset Café was a jazz club in Chicago, Illinois. 

It was one of the most important jazz clubs in America.  Chicago became a creative capital of jazz innovation and again during the emergence of bebop in the early 1940s.  From its inception, the club was a rarity as a haven from segregation.  The Sunset Cafe was an integrated or "Black and Tan" club where Blacks and other ethnicities could mingle freely with white Americans without much fear of reprisal. Many important musicians developed their careers at the Sunset/Grand Terrace Café. 

Owned by Louis Armstrong's manager Joe Glaser, the venue played host to such performers as Armstrong, Adelaide Hall, Billie Holiday, Fletcher Henderson, Cab Calloway, Johnny Dodds, Bix Beiderbecke, Jimmy Dorsey, Benny Goodman, Gene Krupa, and Earl "Fatha" Hines and his orchestra's members: Billy Eckstine, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, and Sarah Vaughan.  

The building that housed the Cafe still stands at 315 E 35th St in the Bronzeville neighborhood of Chicago. Originally built in 1909 as an automobile garage, after a 1921 remodeling, it became a venue with around 100 tables, a bandstand, and a dance floor.  While the historic structure that once housed New York's original Cotton Club was torn down decades ago for urban renewal, Chicago's original Sunset/Grand Terrace Cafe building still stands and still has some original murals on the walls.

The Sunset/Grand Terrace Cafe building returned to its modest roots after the then Grand Terrace Cafe closed in 1950, serving as a political office for a short time and then an Ace Hardware store. The building received Chicago Landmark status on September 9, 1998.

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