On the corner of Kingston & Bergen, a quiet corner in the re-awakening Brooklyn neighborhood of Weeksville, sits the Kingston Lounge. A small jazz club which opened in 1944, the "Kingston Lounge Wine & Dine Restaurant & Cocktail Lounge", as its falling marquee proclaims, was a neighborhood staple for decades. In the 1980s, it fell into decline, and soon only the apartments above were in use. By 2001, it was deserted.
During its heyday, the Kingston attracted guests from as far away as Harlem; even holding no more than 60 patrons at a time, the Lounge attracted musicians as renowned as Kenny Dorham, Randy Weston, Max Roach, Sahib Shihab & Matthew Gee. In fact, Dorham, Gee, Cecil Payne and company recorded a 1960 album under the name of The Swingers (Jazzland Records) on which the second track is entitled "Kingston Lounge", in honor of the place where they practiced and jammed out, entertaining the block until the wee hours.
Much of the older generation living in Bed-Stuy remembers the Lounge in full form. Down the block from me, I heard a story about how the parents of a middle-aged resident went on their first date there. I sat with a neighbor on the stoop and heard about amazing and inspirational shows, jam sessions that could still be heard as the neighbors woke and shuffled past in the early mornings, and the dark side of the Kingston - until the 70s, the club would not admit white patrons under any circumstances.
But that was the time, and that was New York. In the 80s, the club was repeatedly cited for health code violations; some in the neighborhood cried foul and claimed that the inspectors were trying to shut the Lounge down for no good reason. In light of history, that doesn't seem unreasonable. The upper floors were used for many years as apartments, until they too didn't make code - and the building was shuttered.
About two months after naming my blog after the institution in question, I finally had the opportunity to visit the interior of the Kingston Lounge.
Sadly, the thing most notably absent upon walking into this historic location was... history. Years ago, the vacant Lounge was purchased by a real estate prospector. It has been warehoused ever since, but either at the time of its abandonment, or (more likely) after purchase, it was stripped of most of its character. There are still mirrored panels on one wall, and the remnants of the last decorative paint job on the opposing wall - but in general, without knowing the history of the place, one wouldn't assume that it was a place where legends honed their skills, where generations of Brooklynites spent their nights soaking in carefully rehearsed tunes and hours-long impromptu jam sessions.
The upstairs is just as empty, albeit more photogenic. On the second floor, there is a bedroom soaked in deep blue paint. I continued to tour the apartments for a few minutes, but saddened by the utter dearth of historical evidence, I shortly departed. Here are the rest of the shots I took that morning - less than 10 in all.