Little Harlem

Photo of Little Harlem, via WNY Heritage, date unknown.

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Google street view of former Little Harlem site at 494-496 Michigan Ave. Image capture date April 2021.

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Photo of Little Harlem on fire, unknown date and provenance.

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Record from CRIS stating that Little Harlem is demolished.

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Known Name(s)

Little Harlem


44 Michigan Ave. Buffalo, NY (Primary) (1938)
494 Michigan Ave. Buffalo, NY (Secondary) (1939, 1940, 1941, 1947, 1948, 1949, 1950, 1951, 1952, 1953, 1954, 1955, 1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1961)

Establishment Type(s)


Physical Status



A two-story brick building facing east onto Michigan Avenue. The first floor had two sets of wood paneled multilight double doors with transoms above. Between the doors were rectangular multilight windows with clipped corners. The second floor had a bay window to the left of the front facing side, a double window, and four one-over-one windows from left to right. A neon sign above the first-floor windows spelled out: Little Harlem Hotel. There was a parapet at the roof level.

The interior of the building went through multiple iterations. Originally, the space had tinted walls and had draped ceilings. By 1942, it was redecorated with a circle bar and a chromium plated cocktail lounge.


Detailed History

Built in the early twentieth century, 496 Michigan operated as an ice cream parlor and the Oriental Billiard Parlor before it became Little Harlem. Owned and managed by Ann Montgomery, Little Harlem was at the heart of the African American entertainment scene in Buffalo. The site boosted visits from Cab Calloway, Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, and Duke Ellington, as well as female bandleaders Lil Armstrong and Sherdena Walker.

Ann Montgomery ran Little Harlem until her death in 1978. She was one of the first female African American business leaders in Buffalo, as well as a member of the NAACP, the Michigan Avenue YMCA, and the Hadji Court 62, Daughters of Isis. While the club had been inventoried by the State HIstoric Preservation Office, it was destroyed by a kitchen fire in February 1993. The land is now a parking lot.


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