3. The Renaissance Ballroom
Abandoned interior of the Renaissance Ballroom by AbandonedNYC
Recently in the news because of preservation efforts to save this long deteriorating ballroom in Harlem, the Renaissance Ballroom was a once-swanky venue that hosted dance parties led by bandleaders like Duke Ellington and Count Basie before basketball games of the Harlem Rens, which also took place inside. It was the first theater in New York that was owned and operated by African-Americans and true center for the community. Built in 1921, it housed a 900-seat theater, casino and ballroom. The two-story structure was arranged so that the family activities such as movies and performances were on the first floor, and the commercial space on the second floor held the casino and ballroom.
The “Rennie” closed in 1979 and the property was purchased by the Abyssinian Development Corporation, with a restoration plan to be concluded on the building over the next ten years which never took place. In 1991, the Landmarks Preservation Commission agreed and set out to landmark the complex, but it was never passed. In its abandoned condition, the ballroom was a perfect setting for Spike Lee’s movie “Jungle Fever”, where he used it as a backdrop for the notorious crack den scene.