April 20, 2013:
315 E 35th St

Posted April 20, 2013

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What is now Meyer’s Ace Hardware Store, on the corner of East 35th street and Martin Luther King Drive in the historic heart of Bronzeville, was once home to the Sunset Café or Grand Terrace Café, one of Chicago’s foremost jazz clubs. Throughout the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s it hosted the likes of Louis Armstrong, Bix Beiderbecke, Harold Burrage, Cab Calloway, Earl “Fatha” Hines and Benny Goodman (whose Chicago birthplace we are yet to locate). Later on, it branched out to accommodate the slightly more adventurous sound world of jazz pioneer Sun Ra, who lived in Chicago from 1945 until 1961—a time which saw the decisive transformation of his orchestra to the renowned arkestra. A single billboard installed inside the hardware store reminds the visitor of Ra’s stint there. A very helpful shop assistant who must be used to this kind of tourism showed us the way to the back room, a somewhat disorganized-looking office, the walls of which were adorned with big band-era murals (the band’s keyboard player now partly obscured by a microwave oven). Among the items for sale at the store are a set of postcards chronicling the club’s glory days during the rightly named Jazz Age.

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