Savoy Ballroom


2203 E. Madison St., corner 22nd Ave. E.

The first legal dance hall in Seattle’s black community, which faced an uphill battle convincing City Hall that the Central District needed recreational facilities, the Savoy was established by Lemuel Honeysuckle, who in 1941 hired high schooler Billy Tolles to lead a swing band, the Savoy Boys, though the official “grand opening” was not advertised until 1943 and the hall was not officially sanctioned by the city until 1945. Musicians who played the Savoy included Al Pierre, Roscoe Weathers, Al Hickey and the Jive Bombers, Charlie and Bumps Blackwell, Vern Mallory and Ernestine Anderson. The buliding was originally a roundhouse for streetcars, then became the Gala movie theater, then the Savoy and, eventually, Birdland, an important early site for local rock’n’rollers, including Dave Lewis. At one point the round building even served as a rink where customers roller skated to the music.

Jackson Street After Hours (print only).