The Magic of Kentucky Avenue
Atlantic City was a major center for entertainment long before casinos came to town. The area around Kentucky and Arctic Avenues, “KY and the Curb” as it was known, was the place for visitors and locals to frequent nightclubs that attracted top performers along the East Coast. The clubs were filled with celebrities, including those who performed at other venues, politicians and people looking for a good time. It was a huge draw for big stars in the entertainment industry and for those looking for a big break. People would drive from Philadelphia, New York, Washington D.C. and even Boston to enjoy a weekend of entertainment from the 1930s to the 1960s.
The popular nightclubs near KY and the Curb - Club Harlem, Little Belmont, Paradise Club, Wonder Garden and Wonder Bar - attracted such stars as Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie, Ethel Waters, Nat King Cole, Lena Horne, Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, Cab Calloway, Frank Sinatra, and Dinah Washington. Crowds from all walks of life filled the streets and clubs, for the programs on Saturday nights and the “breakfast shows” on Sunday mornings. It was difficult to even walk down Kentucky Avenue at times because of all the people waiting to get into the various clubs and the restaurants.
By the late 1960s the area was changing. Most of the clubs were gone by the time Resorts, the first Atlantic City casino, opened in 1978. But the excitement, the fun, the great names in entertainment, the mingling of people and the Magic of Kentucky Avenue will always be a part of The Atlantic City Experience.
|Larry Steele||Alma Fay Horn||Chris Columbo|
Visit some of the popular Kentucky Avenue sites.
|Club Harlem||Grace's Little Belmont||Wash's Restaurant|
Share your memories and favorite experiences of Kentucky Avenue.
The Atlantic City Free Public Library held the opening for its "Atlantic City Experience: Magic of Kentucky Avenue" exhibit on Feb. 6, 2013, in celebration of Black History Month. The photos are from the library's Atlantic City Heritage Collections. The photos highlight the entertainment, people and places that made Kentucky Avenue such an iconic hot spot in the early-to-mid 1900s. African American Heritage Museum of Southern New Jersey founder Ralph E. Hunter, Sr., was the guest speaker.
To learn more about Kentucky Avenue and the Northside in Atlantic City, and African-American history and jazz more generally, check out some of these resources available at the Atlantic City Free Public Library.
Selected Electronic Resources in the Library Collection
Sanborn Digital Maps for New Jersey (1867-1970) - see street maps and building locations for New Jersey communities for various years.·
Heritage Quest - research people who lived in Atlantic City's Northside and along Kentucky Avenue through census records, family records, and local histories.·
Selected Print Resources in the Library Collection (Search the Library Catalog for more information about these resources or to place a hold.)
Ira Berlin. The Making of African America: The Four Great Migrations. New York: Penguin Books, 2010.
Bob Blumenthal. Jazz: An Introduction to the History and Legends Behind America's Music. New York: Collins, 2007.
Richard Cook. The Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings. London: Penguin, 2006.
Leonard Feather and Ira Gitler. The Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007.
Henry Louis Gates Jr., Life Upon These Shores: Looking at African-American History, 1513-2008. New York: Knopf, 2011.
Henry Louis Gates, Jr. The African-American Century: How Black Americans Have Shaped Our Country. New York: Free Press, 2000.
Gary Giddins. Jazz. New York: W.W. Norton, 2009
Alton Hornsby. Milestones in 20th Century African-American History. Detroit: Visible Ink Press, 1993.
Preston Lauterbach. The Chitlin Circuit and the Road to Rock n' Roll. New York: W.W. Norton, 2011.
Stanely I. Mour. American Jazz Musicians. Springfield, NJ: Enslow Publishers, 1998
Jeffrey C. Stewart. 1001 Things Everyone Should Know About African-American History. New York: Main Street Books, 1998.
Geoffrey C. Ward. Jazz: A History of America's Music. New York: Knopf, 2000.
Deborah Willis, editor. Let Your Motto Be Resistance: African-American Portraits. Washington: National Museum of African-American History, 2007
Resources in the Library's Atlantic City Heritage Collections Related to Kentucky Avenue and the Northside
Atlantic City City Directories
Atlantic City Amusements
Atlantic City newspapers - Collections on Microfilm.
Herbert James Foster. The Urban Experience of Blacks in Atlantic City, New Jersey: 1850-1915. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers, 1981.
Richlyn Goddard. Three Months to Hurry and Nine Months to Worry: Resort life for African Americans in Atlantic City, NJ (1850-1940). Howard University, 2001.
Richlyn Goddard. The Other Side of the Boardwalk: The African American Experience in Atlantic City, NJ 1880-1940. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University, 1991.
Nelson Johnson. The Northside: African Ameircans and the Creation of Atlatnic City. Medford NJ: Plexus Publishing, 2010.
David C. Munn, editor. The Black Experience in Southern New Jersey: Papers Presented at a Symposium at the Camden County Historical Society, February 11-12, 1984. Camden County Historical Society, 1985.
Turiya S.A. Raheem. Growing Up in the Other Atlantic City: Wash's and the Northside. Xlibris, 2009
ACFPL Collection of Atlantic City Photographs (H009)
ACFPL Collection of Atlantic City Postcards (H049)
ACFPL Map Collection (H020)
Atlantic City Board of Trade 1939, 1940, 1942, 1945
Abrams Photographs of Paradise Club and Basin Street Club (H007)
Alma Fay Horn Photographs (H008)
Club Harlem Collection (H039)
Walls Family Photographs (H063)
Local History Subject File - Nightclubs
Local History Subject File - Black History
Local History Subject File - Kentucky Avenue Renaissance
Local History Biography File - Chris Columbo
Local History Biography File - Larry Steele
Local History Biography File - Alma Fay Horn