From the 1920s to 1950s, Central Avenue was the hub of the West Coast jazz scene. Famous the world over, “the Avenue,” as it was lovingly called, was a must-visit destination for jazz lovers staying in Los Angeles. “I didn’t know where Sunset Boulevard was when I moved to L.A., but sure I knew Central,” legendary producer Quincy Jones recalled.
Undoubtedly the epicenter of the jazz scene in Los Angeles, the 115-room Dunbar Hotel was built in 1928 by Drs. John and Vada Sommerville. It was named for American poet Paul Laurence Dunbar, and was a place where black travelers could stay in style and comfort. The luxurious hotel soon attracted the likes of Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Lena Horne, and Billie Holiday. Famed Club Alabam (featuring drag balls in the 1930's and 1940's) opened next door.
The jazz club that occupied the ground floor of the hotel featured performances that would showcase both male and female impersonators.