Crawford Grill number 2 (2009)
|Location||2141 Wylie Avenue
||Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission|
|PA marker dedicated||April 7, 2001|
Crawford Grill was a renowned jazz club in the Hill District of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. During its heyday in the 1950s and 60s the venue hosted local and nationally-recognized acts, including jazz legends Billy Eckstine, Sarah Vaughan, Erroll Garner, Dizzy Gillespie, and John Coltrane. Unusually for the period, and unlike the more famous Cotton Club in New York City, patrons and musicians were not segregated by race; black entertainers could enter the club by the front door along with the mixed-race audience, which frequently included out-of-town celebrities from Ethel Kennedy to Martin Luther King. After several incarnations at different locations, it closed in 2003.
The club was opened by Gus Greenlee in 1930. Greenlee first made his reputation as a numbers runner and racketeer, then later as the owner of the Negro League baseball team the Pittsburgh Crawfords. The Crawford Grill had several incarnations at different addresses during its lifetime.
- Crawford Grill No. 1 (1930-1951): The original club was located on the corner of Crawford Street and Wylie Avenue in a former hotel called the Leader House. It remained in business until 1951, when it was destroyed by a fire. The building was demolished in 1959 as part of the Civic Arena development plan.
- Crawford Grill No. 2 (1943-2003): The second venue opened on the corner of Wylie Avenue and Elmore Street, approximately ten blocks east of the original location. In 2001, the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission dedicated a marker on the site.
- Crawford Grill No. 3 (1948-1955): Located on the corner of Bidwell Street and Pennsylvania Avenue in the Manchester neighborhood of Pittsburgh, this club closed in just seven years.
The Crawford Grill today
Facing electrical and sewage problems, the last surviving Crawford Grill location (No. 2) closed its doors in 2003 and was put up for sale in 2006. In 2010 a local sources announced that an investment group including Pittsburgh Central Keystone Innovation Zone, Pittsburgh Gateways Corporation, Hill House EDC, Franco Harris, and several private individuals had purchased the building for $275,000. The group has stated it aims to preserve the legacy of the building through restoration efforts and the establishment of a new restaurant and nightclub.
The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum commission unveiled a blue and gold historical marker outside the Crawford Grill building on April 7, 2001. The unveiling marked the conclusion of a three-day conference focused on black history in Pennsylvania. In attendance were Pittsburgh councilman Sala Udin, the building's owner, William "Buzzie" Robinson, and the owner of the Crawford Grill business, Keith Ferris.
In popular culture
- "Crawford Grill Historical Marker: Behind the Marker". Explore PA History. Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development. Retrieved 25 August 2015.
- "Owner of the Legendary Crawford Grill and the Pittsburgh Crawfords". Pittsburgh Music History. Retrieved 27 July 2013.
- "Crawford Grill Historical Marker". Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. 7 April 2001.
Text from historical marker: A center of Black social life where musicians such as Art Blakey, Mary Lou Williams, John Coltrane drew a racially mixed, international clientele. Here, Crawford Grill number 2, the second of three clubs opened 1943; was owned by William (Gus) Greenlee, later by Joseph Robinson.
- Guidry, Nate (15 November 2006). "Hill District landmark Crawford Grill for sale". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
- Spencer, Malia (1 March 2010). "Group of nonprofits, investors aim to bring Crawford Grill back". Pittsburgh Business Times.
- Editorial Staff (April 14, 2010). "Crawford Grill purchased…Franco Harris part of investment group". New Pittsburgh Courier. Retrieved 13 August 2015.
- Brown, Charles N. (April 11, 2001). "Crawford Grill Honored with Historic Marker". New Pittsburgh Courier.
- Media related to Crawford Grill at Wikimedia Commons
- Crawford Grill photo gallery from the exhibition Teenie Harris, Photographer: An American Story