The historic neighborhood of San Juan Hill anchored Manhattan’s upper west side in the first half of the twentieth century. During its time, the area was known for its theaters, clubs, and dance halls, and the creative activity that proliferated in those spaces became a hallmark of the neighborhood. James P. Johnson led “cuttin’ contests” among jazz musicians at the Jungles Casino. The 63rd Street Music Hall premiered the first all-Black Broadway hit, Shuffle Along. The show Runnin’ Wild debuted at the Colonial Theatre, and through its run, catapulted “The Charleston” to international fame. Artists and writers, such as George Bellows, Robert Henri, and Eugene O’Neill, had studios in the Lincoln Square Arcade, and venues like Tom Sharkey’s and the Saint Nicolas Arena brought in massive audiences for matches, games, concerts, and Latin dance nights.

Explore the history of these cultural spaces, the artistry that thrived there, and how they reflect the dynamics of 20th century New York City with leading experts in the field.


  • Dr. Vanessa K. Valdés, Associate Provost for Community Engagement at the City College of New York


  • Dorothy Berry, Digital Curator at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture
  • Julia Foulkes, Professor of History at the New School
  • Jessica Larson, Doctoral Candidate in Art History at The Graduate Center of the City University of New York
  • Arminda Thomas, Dramaturg, Archivist, and Director; Producing member of the CLASSIX theatre collective

Part of Legacies of San Juan Hill, an ongoing project that aims to uplift the history, communities, and cultural legacy of the Manhattan neighborhoods that existed in and around the area where Lincoln Center was built. To learn more, visit:

This conversation was filmed at Lincoln Center on November 9, 2023.