52nd Street (Manhattan)

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52nd Street
NYC 52nd St theatres.jpg
The theatres of 52nd Street in 2007
Maintained by City of New York
Length 1.9 mi (3.1 km)
Location New York
West end NY 9A West Side Highway
East end Cul-de-sac a block east of First Avenue

52nd Street is a 1.9-mile (3.1 km) long one-way street traveling west to east across Midtown Manhattan, New York City. It was known as the city's center of jazz performance from the 1930s to the 1950s.

Jazz center

Looking east from 6th Avenue, 52nd Street at night (May 1948); photo by William P. Gottlieb (cropped)

Following the repeal of Prohibition in 1933, 52nd Street replaced 133rd street as "Swing Street" of the city. The blocks of 52nd Street between Fifth Avenue and Seventh Avenue became renowned for the abundance of jazz clubs and lively street life. The street was convenient to musicians playing on Broadway and the 'legitimate' nightclubs and was also the site of a CBS studio. Musicians who played for others in the early evening played for themselves on 52nd Street.

In its heyday from 1930 through the early 1950s, 52nd Street clubs hosted such jazz legends as Miles Davis, Harry Gibson, Dizzy Gillespie, Billie Holiday, Nat Jaffe, Marian McPartland, Thelonious Monk, Charlie Parker, Louis Prima, Art Tatum, Fats Waller, Trummy Young, and many more. Although musicians from all schools performed there, after Minton's Playhouse in uptown Harlem, 52nd Street was the second most important place for the dissemination of bebop;.[1] In fact, a tune called "52nd Street Theme" by Thelonious Monk became a bebop anthem and jazz standard.

The south side of 52nd Street, between 5th & 6th Avenues – looking east from 6th Avenue (c.1948); photo by William P. Gottlieb

Virtually every great jazz player and singer of the era performed at clubs:

52nd, between 6th & 7th[2]

52nd, between 5th & 6th

  • 21 Club, 21 W 52
  • Leon & Eddie's, 33 W 52
  • The Famous Door
35 W 52 (Mar 1935–May 1936)
66 W 52 (Dec 1937–Nov 1943)
201 W 52 (Nov 1943–1944)
56 W 52 (1947–1950)
154 W 54th (1962–1983)
  • Spotlight Club, 56 W 52
  • Club Samoa
62 W 52 (1940–1943)
became a strip club in 1943
35 W 52 (1927–1933) (owned by Joe Helbock)
72 W 52 (1933–1937) (owned by Joe Helbock)
62 W 52 (1937–1939) (owned by Joe Helbock, et al.)
57 W 52 (1942–1949) (unrelated to the original Onyx)
became a strip club in 1949
  • Yacht Club, 66 W 52
  • Club Downbeat, 66 W 52
  • Club Carousel, 66 W 52
  • 3 Deuces, 72 W 52

Noted jazz disc jockey Symphony Sid frequently did live broadcasts from the street, making it well-known across the country.

By the late 1940s the jazz scene began moving elsewhere around the city and urban renewal began to take hold of the street. By the 1960s, most of the legendary clubs were razed or fell into disrepair. The last club there closed its doors in 1968. Today, the street is full of banks, shops, and department stores and shows little trace of its jazz history. The block from 5th to 6th Avenues is formally co-named "Swing Street" and one block west is called "W. C. Handys Place".

The 21 Club is the sole surviving club on 52nd Street that also existed during the 1940s. The venue for the original Birdland at 1674 Broadway (between 52nd & 53rd), which came into existence in 1949, is now a "gentlemen's club." The current Birdland is on 44th Street, between 8th and 9th Avenues.

Notable places along 52nd Street

This is a list of notable places within one block of 52nd Street.

West Side Highway

Eleventh Avenue

The section between Eleventh and Tenth Avenues is signed "Joe Hovarth Way" in tribute to Joseph Hovarth (1945–1995) who located the Police Athletic League William J. Duncan Center on the block after moving from its original location.[3] The Duncan Center is named for a patrolman who was shot while chasing a stolen car in the neighborhood on May 17, 1930.[4]

Tenth Avenue

Ninth Avenue

  • The Manhattan School – Public School 35, special ed. (317 Wt 52nd) (north)
  • Radio City Station Post Office (zip code 10019) (south)
  • The Link (south), 43–story, 215–unit, glass tower condominium (height = 471 feet), opened in 2007[5] on site of the S.I.R. (Studio Instrument Rentals, Inc.) building at 310 W 52nd, known as the Palm Gardens Building.[6] S.I.R. occupied the building from 1974 until 2004. Cheetah, the well-known club that had once been at 53rd and Broadway, occupied the Palm Gardens building from 1968 to 1974. Cheetah became a popular Latin-American dance club that helped popularize Salsa to mainstream America.[7]

Eighth Avenue

52nd Street between Sixth and Seventh Avenues is "W. C. Handy's Place"
The "21 Club"
The William Kissam Vanderbilt mansion "Petit Chateau", designed by Richard Morris Hunt, stood on the corner of Fifth Avenue and 52nd Street until 1926
The Seagram Building was completed in 1957 and was designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, in collaboration with Philip Johnson


Seventh Avenue

Sixth and a Half Avenue

Sixth Avenue

Fifth Avenue

Madison Avenue

Park Avenue

Lexington Avenue

  • 52nd between Lexington and Third Avenue is signed Israel Bonds Way (the Development Corporation for Israel which issues the bonds is headquartered at the intersection in the Grolier Building).
  • Grolier Building 33-story 126 m 414 ft (126 m) building completed in 1958[23]
  • 599 Lexington Avenue, 50-story 199 m 653 ft (199 m) building completed in 1986 (north)[24]
  • 150 East 52nd Street, 35-story 119 m 390 ft (120 m) building completed in 1983[25]

Third Avenue

Second Avenue

  • Thailand Consulate and Mission to the United Nations

First Avenue

  • 52nd Street is two-way traffic east of First Avenue since it dead ends on a bluff above the FDR Drive.
  • Southgate Apartment
  • Rivergate Apartment
  • 450 East 52nd - "The Campanile" is a 14-story brick cooperative apartment building overlooking the East River. It was home to celebrities such as Greta Garbo and John Lennon.



  1. Miles Davis (1989) Autobiography
  2. Ken Vail, Jazz milestones: a pictorial chronicle of jazz 1900-1990, Volume, Part 2, Castle Communications (1993) OCLC 30781182, 34905815 and 680173922 ISBN 095222870X ISBN 9780952228707 ISBN 1860740502 ISBN 9781860740503
  4. P.A.L. DEDICATES ITS DREAM HOUSE; New Center on West Side Created From Building Abandoned by Y.W.C.A - New York Times - January 22, 1956
  5. The Link, New York City / Emporis.com
  6. Christopher Walsh, S.I.R. on the Move, Billboard Magazine, July 10, 2004, pg. 56
  7. Larry Rohter, It Happened One Night at the Cheetah, The New York Times, August 19, 2011
  8. Accor Novotel, New York City / Emporis.com
  9. 1675 Broadway, New York City / Emporis.com
  10. Sheraton New York hotel & Towers Emporis.com
  11. AXA Center, New York City / Emporis.com
  12. Sheraton City Squire Hotel, New York City / Emporis.com
  13. Flatotel New York City, New York City / Emporis.com
  14. 1285 Avenue of the Americas, New York City / Emporis.com
  15. Officially Marking a New Manhattan Avenue, NYTimes - City Room, July 13, 2012 - accessed July 31, 2012
  16. 1290 Avenue of the Americas, New York City / Emporis.com
  17. Time-Warner Building, New York City / Emporis.com
  18. 650 Fifth Avenue, New York City / Emporis.com
  19. Austrian Cultural Institute Building, New York City / Emporis.com
  20. Omni Berkshire Place Hotel, New York City / Emporis.com
  21. Park Avenue Plaza Building, New York City / Emporis.com
  22. Seagram Building, New York City / Emporis.com
  23. Grolier Building, New York City / Emporis.com
  24. 599 Lexington Avenue, New York City / Emporis.com
  25. 150 East 52nd Street, New York City / Emporis.com
  26. 875 3rd Avenue, New York City / Emporis.com
  27. MacMillan Building, New York City / Emporis.com

External links