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The Green Book Pittsburgh Locations

The Green Book

Black America's travel guide to the United States, 1936-1966
Unknown woman driving a 1941 Super Deluxe Ford car, with a Mrs. Sherrow and Steel City Motors car salesman Walter Pettey in back seat, Canonsburg. (Courtesy of the Carnegie Museum of Art, Teenie Harris archive)
Unknown woman driving a 1941 Super Deluxe Ford car, with a Mrs. Sherrow and Steel City Motors car salesman Walter Pettey in back seat, Canonsburg. (Courtesy of the Carnegie Museum of Art, Teenie Harris archive)

Green Book History

After the South lost the Civil War in 1865, the federal government sent in troops to enforce racial equality. But in 1877, the government pulled out its troops. The South immediately imposed a series of rules and customs meant to keep black residents inferior to and separate from whites. This period is called the "Jim Crow" era. Violators of the rules faced violence, even death. Jim Crow rules persisted until the 1960s, when President Lyndon B. Johnson assured the passage of two landmark laws officially ending barriers to black voter registration, segregation in public places and employment discrimination.

Victor Hugo Green, an African-American postal worker, started his "Green Book" in 1936 as a way for black travelers to find safe, welcoming accommodations in New York City. Its quick popularity led him to expand the book's recommendations to the whole country and international sites. Green died in 1960, after which his widow, Alma, continued the book until 1966.

The last Green Book, 1966-67. (New York Public Library Digital Collections)

Pittsburgh's Green Book

As black Americans fled racial terrorism in the South, their new neighbors in the North began imposing similar customs on them. Pittsburgh was no exception. The following are Jim Crow customs that existed in Pittsburgh until the 1960s:

No jobs with physical contact
Black people were usually not allowed in jobs that involved touching food, clothing or white people, especially white women. These prohibitions included scooping ice cream at Isaly's, selling candy at a counter in Sears or selling shoes. Customers complained to management when this taboo was broken. The combined number of black salespeople at local department stores Horne's, Kaufmann's, Gimbels, Frank & Seder's and Rosenbaum's was eight in 1948.

Separate lodging
Many of Pittsburgh's hotels would not lodge black patrons, even celebrities such as Jackie Robinson, the first Major League Baseball player.

Separate eating
Many Downtown restaurants and lunch counters would not serve black patrons. Downtown five-and-dime stores Kresge's, McCrory's and two G.C. Murphy's would give black customers takeout food in the back but not serve them at lunch counters.

The Pittsburgh listings in the last Green Book, 1966-67. (New York Public Library Digital Collections)

Separate seating
African-American moviegoers had to sit in the highest balconies of Pittsburgh's movie cinemas.

Barriers to college
High school counselors would tell academically inclined black students they were "not college material" and steer them toward vocational school. In some cases, counselors would not permit black students to take a foreign language, which was required to apply to most colleges.

Separate swimming
Public pools were racially segregated by custom enforced with violence. For years, police looked on as white swimmers beat, insulted, threw rocks at and held underwater black swimmers. Police often arrested the black victims afterward. Black activists had to sue the city in 1951 to compel Pittsburgh officials to enforce equal access to pools. As late as 1962, West Penn Swimming Pool in Polish Hill had a sign reading "No dogs or n—s allowed."

Hiring discrimination
Black job applicants found it difficult to get hired here. Some job interviewers would mark the resumes of black job candidates to indicate that they were African-American and should not be hired. Black workers were largely shut out of jobs building Three Rivers Stadium and the U.S. Steel Building, in spite of promises that a certain percentage of the work would go to them.

The Terrace Hall Hotel at 2335 Centre Ave. was listed in the 1959 Green Book. It still offers rooms at $75 a night, $90 a night with bath. (Steve Mellon/Post-Gazette)

Urban renewal
This was a nationwide movement after World War II to make room for new development. In Pittsburgh, city officials razed the impoverished Lower Hill District to make way for the Civic Arena. The displaced homeowners and renters relocated, with the poorest ones — overwhelmingly black — put in isolated all-black public housing developments, such as Addison Terrace and Bedford Dwellings in the Hill.

Blockbusting
Home developers would scare white homeowners by saying black buyers wanted to move in and would bring down property values. The developers then would buy the white people's houses at less than market value, turn around and sell them to black home buyers at much higher prices. In part because of blockbusting, all-white or largely white areas such as Perry South, Homewood and Wilkinsburg became mostly black.

Redlining
The term refers to a 1930s federal map in which high-risk lending areas had a red line around them. Certain businesses, especially banks and insurance companies, would deny loans or service to black customers, or in reverse redlining, would charge black customers higher prices.

Sundown towns
This term generally meant a town or area in which black people faced intimidation or violence after nightfall. In some cases, it referred to the expulsion of all black residents from a particular place. In 1923, after a robbery-murder in which a black man was a suspect, a 200-person mob ordered all 200 to 250 black residents of Stowe Township to move out within 24 hours. While African-American residents barricaded themselves in their homes, police looked on and did not stop the dispossession. All but a few longtime residents left.

White flight
White city dwellers moved in great numbers to the suburbs in the decades after World War II, ostensibly for the fresh air and clean surroundings, but also to avoid racial integration. Pittsburgh's suburbs grew from this trend.

Many locations were listed for Pittsburgh in the Green Book at different times, but the following are the eight establishments listed for the last Green Book in 1966-67:

The Pittsburgh listings in the last Green Book, 1966-67. (New York Public Library Digital Collections)
The Terrace Hall Hotel at 2335 Centre Ave. was listed in the 1959 Green Book. It still offers rooms at $75 a night, $90 a night with bath. (Steve Mellon/Post-Gazette)

Ellis Hotel

2044 Centre Ave., Hill District

Then

In 1951, the Ellis advertised radios in every room, steam heat, and hot and cold running water. It hosted famous jazz musicians in its Shangri-La Room and served french-fried shrimp and steak. In the 1970s, it became the site of robberies, drug raids, drug addicts, fires and prostitution. By the 1980s, it was a homeless shelter. It was demolished in 2013.

Now

Empty lot

Patrons gather around the bar on opening night at the Ellis Hotel, July 1957. (Courtesy of the Carnegie Museum of Art Teenie Harris archives)
The Ellis Hotel stands empty in August 2002 just before its September demolition. (Bill Wade/Post-Gazette)
Site of the Ellis Hotel today. (Steve Mellon/Post-Gazette)

Elmore Hotel

2153 Webster Ave., Hill District

Then

This club advertised in the Pittsburgh Courier throughout the 1950s. In the 1960s, it was in the news for a fire and for housing a heroin suspect. The last time the hotel appeared in the press was in a 1975 The Pittsburgh Press story about police seeing a heroin suspect there and giving chase.

Now

New townhouse

An advertisement for the Elmore Hotel from Jan. 2, 1965, in the Pittsburgh Courier.
Site of the Elmore Hotel today at 2153 Webster Ave. (Steve Mellon/Post-Gazette)

Flamingo Hotel

2407 Wylie Ave., Hill District

Then

This 22-room club was the headquarters of the Dandy Duffers African-American men's golf club and a venue for famous musical acts. In 1954, it advertised a menu of jumbo shrimp and T-bone steak. In 1974, three men in ski masks held up the Flamingo and robbed a dozen patrons before the a co-owner of the bar pulled a gun from her purse and shot one of the robbers in the head, neck and abdomen.

Now

Shirl the Pearl's bar with DJ music, hot food, apartments and Nephs, a small clothing store.

A street scene with the Flamingo Club, 1950-1960. (Courtesy of the Carnegie Museum of Art Teenie Harris archives)
The Flamingo Club remains a bar today. (Steve Mellon/Post-Gazette)

Hotel Webster Hall

4415 Fifth Ave., Oakland

Then

Local architect Henry Hornbostel designed Webster Hall in 1926 as a men's club hotel. It hosted regular dance nights as well as various events. The Falk and Frank families bought it in 1935, and it became a favorite venue for Jewish social events. After World War II, the pool, gym and handball and squash courts were removed to enlarge the rooms, and TVs and air conditioning were added. The building was converted into luxury apartments in 1978. In 1983, Carnegie Mellon University bought the property.

Now

Carnegie Mellon University-owned student apartments

An undated photo of Webster Hall as a hotel. (Courtesy of the Carnegie Museum of Art)
The lobby of Hotel Webster Hall, undated. (Courtesy of the Carnegie Museum of Art)
Webster Hall apartments, 2017. (Rebecca Droke/Post-Gazette)

Hurricane Club (Birdie's Guest House)

1522 Centre Ave., Hill District

Then

The Hurricane Club, owned by Anna Simmons "Birdie" Dunlap, also had guest rooms. The Hurricane rivaled the famed Crawford Grill in popularity and musical importance. The widowed Mrs. Dunlap did not tolerate smoking, heavy petting or loafing with an empty glass in her club. Violators were ejected. She didn't drink, smoke or curse, a cousin said in her 1998 obituary. She once chased foul-mouthed comic Richard Pryor off the Hurricane stage. The club fell victim to urban renewal in the 1970s.

Now

Approximate site of Freedom Corner, near where the Lower Hill was razed to make way for the Civic Arena, since replaced by PPG Paints Arena.

Opening night of the Hurricane Club with Ruby Young Trio performing in background and Anna Simmons "Birdie" Dunlap in a light dress, circa November 1953. (Courtesy of the Carnegie Museum of Art Teenie Harris archives)
Patrons seated in booth at the Hurricane Club, circa 1953–1965. (Courtesy of the Carnegie Museum of Art Teenie Harris archives)
A trio of guitar, saxophone and bass performing in the Hurricane Club circa 1953–1970. (Courtesy of the Carnegie Museum of Art Teenie Harris archives)
Freedom Corner today, approximate site of the former Hurricane Club. (Steve Mellon/Post-Gazette)

Palace Hotel

1545 Wylie Ave., Hill District

Then

Robberies and police raids for suspected prostitution plagued this location even in the 1940s.

Now

Grassy area in Crawford Square apartments

The exterior of the Palace Hotel with mansard roof, circa 1930–1950. (Courtesy of the Carnegie Museum of Art Teenie Harris archives)
The Palace Hotel with a torn awning, circa 1938–1945. (Courtesy of the Carnegie Museum of Art Teenie Harris archives)
Site of the Palace Hotel today. (Steve Mellon/Post-Gazette)

Sherwyn Hotel

205 Wood St., Downtown

Then

The structure was built on the site of the city's leading hotel of the 1800s. Local architect Benno Janssen designed the 400-room building. It opened as the Keystone Athletic Club on Jan. 1, 1929, with a pool, gym and Turkish baths. The Knott Hotel Corp. bought it in 1935 and renamed it the Keystone Hotel. In 1948, the Sheraton hotel chain bought it, and it became a Sheraton. Joseph Massaglia Jr., bought it in 1955 and renamed it the Sherwyn Hotel. By 1960, Point Park Junior College was renting floors there. The college bought the building in 1967.

Now

Point Park University’s Lawrence Hall, a dormitory with other university-related services

The Sherwyn Hotel in 1962. (The Pittsburgh Press)
Point Park University's Lawrence Hall today. (Steve Mellon/Post-Gazette)

B. Williams Tourist Home

1537 Howard St., North Side

Then

This was a private home that became a rental property, with between two and six rooms available at different times.

Now

Empty stretch on Howard Street

Advertisement for the B. Williams house. (The Pittsburgh Press, April 17, 1938)
Stretch of Howard Street that was the approximate site of the B. Williams Tourist Home. (Laura Malt Schneiderman/Post-Gazette)
Patrons gather around the bar on opening night at the Ellis Hotel, July 1957. (Courtesy of the Carnegie Museum of Art Teenie Harris archives)
The Ellis Hotel stands empty in August 2002 just before its September demolition. (Bill Wade/Post-Gazette)
Site of the Ellis Hotel today. (Steve Mellon/Post-Gazette)

Ellis Hotel

2044 Centre Ave., Hill District

Then

In 1951, the Ellis advertised radios in every room, steam heat, and hot and cold running water. It hosted famous jazz musicians in its Shangri-La Room and served french-fried shrimp and steak. In the 1970s, it became the site of robberies, drug raids, drug addicts, fires and prostitution. By the 1980s, it was a homeless shelter. It was demolished in 2013.

Now

Empty lot

An advertisement for the Elmore Hotel from Jan. 2, 1965, in the Pittsburgh Courier.
Site of the Elmore Hotel today at 2153 Webster Ave. (Steve Mellon/Post-Gazette)

Elmore Hotel

2153 Webster Ave., Hill District

Then

This club advertised in the Pittsburgh Courier throughout the 1950s. In the 1960s, it was in the news for a fire and for housing a heroin suspect. The last time the hotel appeared in the press was in a 1975 The Pittsburgh Press story about police seeing a heroin suspect there and giving chase.

Now

New townhouse

A street scene with the Flamingo Club, 1950-1960. (Courtesy of the Carnegie Museum of Art Teenie Harris archives)
The Flamingo Club remains a bar today. (Steve Mellon/Post-Gazette)

Flamingo Hotel

2407 Wylie Ave., Hill District

Then

This 22-room club was the headquarters of the Dandy Duffers African-American men's golf club and a venue for famous musical acts. In 1954, it advertised a menu of jumbo shrimp and T-bone steak. In 1974, three men in ski masks held up the Flamingo and robbed a dozen patrons before the a co-owner of the bar pulled a gun from her purse and shot one of the robbers in the head, neck and abdomen.

Now

Shirl the Pearl's bar with DJ music, hot food, apartments and Nephs, a small clothing store.

An undated photo of Webster Hall as a hotel. (Courtesy of the Carnegie Museum of Art)
The lobby of Hotel Webster Hall, undated. (Courtesy of the Carnegie Museum of Art)
Webster Hall apartments, 2017. (Rebecca Droke/Post-Gazette)

Hotel Webster Hall

4415 Fifth Ave., Oakland

Then

Local architect Henry Hornbostel designed Webster Hall in 1926 as a men's club hotel. It hosted regular dance nights as well as various events. The Falk and Frank families bought it in 1935, and it became a favorite venue for Jewish social events. After World War II, the pool, gym and handball and squash courts were removed to enlarge the rooms, and TVs and air conditioning were added. The building was converted into luxury apartments in 1978. In 1983, Carnegie Mellon University bought the property.

Now

Carnegie Mellon University-owned student apartments

Opening night of the Hurricane Club with Ruby Young Trio performing in background and Anna Simmons "Birdie" Dunlap in a light dress, circa November 1953. (Courtesy of the Carnegie Museum of Art Teenie Harris archives)
Patrons seated in booth at the Hurricane Club, circa 1953–1965. (Courtesy of the Carnegie Museum of Art Teenie Harris archives)
A trio of guitar, saxophone and bass performing in the Hurricane Club circa 1953–1970. (Courtesy of the Carnegie Museum of Art Teenie Harris archives)
Freedom Corner today, approximate site of the former Hurricane Club. (Steve Mellon/Post-Gazette)

Hurricane Club (Birdie's Guest House)

1522 Centre Ave., Hill District

Then

The Hurricane Club, owned by Anna Simmons "Birdie" Dunlap, also had guest rooms. The Hurricane rivaled the famed Crawford Grill in popularity and musical importance. The widowed Mrs. Dunlap did not tolerate smoking, heavy petting or loafing with an empty glass in her club. Violators were ejected. She didn't drink, smoke or curse, a cousin said in her 1998 obituary. She once chased foul-mouthed comic Richard Pryor off the Hurricane stage. The club fell victim to urban renewal in the 1970s.

Now

Approximate site of Freedom Corner

The exterior of the Palace Hotel with mansard roof, circa 1930–1950. (Courtesy of the Carnegie Museum of Art Teenie Harris archives)
The Palace Hotel with torn awning, circa 1938–1945. (Courtesy of the Carnegie Museum of Art Teenie Harris archives)
Site of the Palace Hotel today. (Steve Mellon/Post-Gazette)

Palace Hotel

1545 Wylie Ave., Hill District

Then

Robberies and police raids for suspected prostitution plagued this location even in the 1940s.

Now

Grassy area in Crawford Square Apartments

The Sherwyn Hotel in 1962. (The Pittsburgh Press)
Point Park University's Lawrence Hall today. (Steve Mellon/Post-Gazette)

Sherwyn Hotel

205 Wood St., Downtown

Then

The structure was built on the site of the city's leading hotel of the 1800s. Local architect Benno Janssen designed the 400-room building. It opened as the Keystone Athletic Club on Jan. 1, 1929, with a pool, gym and Turkish baths. The Knott Hotel Corp. bought it in 1935 and renamed it the Keystone Hotel. In 1948, the Sheraton hotel chain bought it, and it became a Sheraton. Joseph Massaglia Jr., bought it in 1955 and renamed it the Sherwyn Hotel. By 1960, Point Park Junior College was renting floors there. The college bought the building in 1967.

Now

Point Park University’s Lawrence Hall, a dormitory with other university-related services

Advertisement for the B. Williams house. (The Pittsburgh Press, April 17, 1938)
Stretch of Howard Street that was the approximate site of the B. Williams Tourist Home. (Laura Malt Schneiderman/Post-Gazette)

B. Williams Tourist Home

1537 Howard St., North Side

Then

This was a private home that became a rental property, with between two and six rooms available at different times.

Now

Empty stretch on Howard Street

Special Thanks

The Post-Gazette wishes to give special thanks to the Teenie Harris Archive at the Carnegie Museum of Art.

Charles "Teenie" Harris (1908–1998) photographed Pittsburgh's African-American community from circa 1935 to circa 1975. His archive of nearly 80,000 images is one of the most detailed and intimate records of the black urban experience known today.

 

Key Sources

"Voices from the Firing Line: Jim Crowe Customs in Pittsburgh," Essential Pittsburgh, June 17, 2014.

"Contested Waters: A Social History of Swimming Pools in America," by Jeff Wiltse, Chapel Hill University of North Carolina Press, 2007.

"Action taken by vigilance committee after crime," Pittsburgh Daily Post, Oct. 10, 1923, p. 1.

"'Go' order given by Stowe Township vigilance committee," Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Oct. 10, 1923, p. 1.

"Race rioting is averted in Stowe by detectives," Pittsburgh Daily Post, Oct. 11, 1923, p. 1.

"Black people told to get out within 24 hours," Pittsburgh Courier, Oct. 13, 1923, p. 1.

Ronald B. Saunders, President of the Dr. Edna B. McKenzie, Branch, Association for the Study of African American Life and History

 

Credits

Research, Website Development: Laura Malt Schneiderman

Photography: Steve Mellon

Design: Dan Marsula

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