Friday, April 25, 2008

Kingston Lounge Wine & Dine Restaurant & Cocktail Lounge



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.







18 comments:

Frank Jump said...

Hey Richard. I posted you on my blog. Great shot. Played a little trick on you when you see it.

Best,
Frank

Ben said...

cool pics, I always wondered what it looked like in there. It is a shame that the details have been stripped but I didn't expect much given the way things look from the outside.

How did you get in, just found a way or is the building being shown? Any word on what the owners have planned for it?

Anonymous said...

I was raised in that place,who own's it now...do you have pics....

Anonymous said...

Are there more pics?

Opinionated Gifts said...

This breaks my heart even more than it was before. I moved to Kingston between Pacific and Dean a year ago and have eyed and read about the Kingston Lounge since I first noticed it.

There must be some way to restore it. Hopefully

kitchen table said...

What are you going to that place? I think small renovation will going to show the beauty of that place. Good luck.

Kathryn said...

Is there any word on whether this is going to be restored? I just moved to this neighborhood a couple of weeks ago and found myself waiting for the B65 right in front of it two nights ago, thinking it would be cool to reopen it.

Helena Rose said...

I've never been to NY but these photos are beautiful. It's amazing the way you can capture the history and beauty in places most people skim over and look down upon. It's remarkable...

jerald montgomery said...

My family (the Montgomery's) were a big part of the last heyday period of the kingston lounge. My uncle Bob, (famously known as "rootman" in the neighborhood had a resteraunt at 100 Kingston avenue.(between Bergen and Dean streets.) I am in the process of a major project documenting that period of the lounges life in the 70's till 1980. If you could contact me, we might be able to bring a lost, but historic part of the lounge, and that area in general to life. You can contact me at jerald@hotmail.com...

jerald9@hotmail.com said...

that's jerald9@hotmail.com. sorry abt the typo..

Moondaddy said...

nice job...it turns out the the owner of Kingston Lounge had a son that also opened, and continues to run a bar in Brooklyn along with his son....ill let him know about this...maybe you guys can get together...and really make something lengthy of it

Michael
brooklynmoon@gmail.com

Viagra Online said...

I can't understand why this place is looking like that, I mean, it seems like if a twister was inside the building. it's a total mess.

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Anonymous said...

The dark side of Kingston... more like the dark side of every white owned establishment in America during the struggle of desegregation in the sixties. And... The area sir is Crown Heights. Changing borders as we please are we? Moonlight as a real estate agent?

Maria Jose Tobar said...

I've heard a lot about the restaurants in Kingston! This place would look fantastic with a little bit of fixing up, don't you think? Who knew Kingston had some of the coolest places?

Anonymous said...

Does Anyone Know who or where the owner is now of the Kingston Lounge On Bergen and Kingston Ave. I would love to know and buy it?

Thanks,

Anonymous said...

in the early sixties; brooklyn had a bar league we
were the kingston team that won many titles for
the lounge liston morris was the manger,

i can name afew of the players jim gallaway sam brown,gill sanders.archie cole.charles harrison
eric best.grant brown the patterson brother robert&
donald nat davis, waverly davis later we played for
the cove. the kingston lounge tas the place too be much love,

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