Places that Matter

Hunts Point Palace

Orlando Marin
Orlando Marin
A dance club for nearly a century, important for performers from mambo king Tito Puente to the first hip-hop crews in the '70s and '80s
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Place Matters Profile

The Palace was host to nearly a century's worth of American popular music; swing music in the 1920s-1930s, big band jazz dance bands in the 1940s, Latin music in the 1940s-1970s, and Hip Hop in the 1970s and 1980s. During the heyday of Latin music in the Bronx, the Hunts Point Palace rivaled Manhattan's Palladium. All the best dancers went there. It held 2500 people, offered large, well-maintained dance floors, and a bandstand that musicians loved. With ornate architecture and beautiful balconies, it had glamour. The "big three"--Tito Puente, Tito Rodríquez, and Machito--often played here, as did stars like Arsenio Rodríguez, and jazz greats like Stan Getz and Dizzy Gillespie. Here, as in other venues, musicians in the late 1960s and 1970s started calling their music salsa--a term that gained currency when Fania Records used it to market a range of Latin music styles, and publicized these urban-edged sounds with a movie called Nuestra Cosa at Manhattan's Cheetah Club. Early salseros Willie Colón and Rúben Blades wrote lyrics relevant to life in El Barrio and to larger social and political issues, while still playing popular dance music. In the 1980s the ballroom closed and Woolworth's moved in. Today the building is being renovated as an office complex.