Crawford Grill No. 2 (2009)
|Location||2141 Wylie Avenue
||Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission|
|PA marker dedicated||April 7, 2001|
The 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 Art Blakey, Charles Mingus, Max Roach, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Bill Evans, and Kenny Burrell. The club, an important social gathering spot for Pittsburgh's African-American communities, drew devoted listeners from the region's ethnically and racially diverse population making it a rare site of interracial socializing during the civil rights period. The Crawford Grill was one of many black-owned neighborhood clubs in the Eastern United States that supported a tour circuit for small jazz ensembles during the genre's "golden age." Despite the riots of 1968, which severely damaged the neighborhood's economic infrastructure, the club continued to operate until 2003, when it was shuttered. In 2010, by a group of local investors purchased the property with the goal of restoring and reopening the location as a venue and restaurant.
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, 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
- "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