A snippet of an article from the Minneapolis Tribune (no date, no byline) tells us that this building, just feet from the Milwaukee Road the railroad tracks, was originally a “hotel and restaurant catering mostly to railroad men.”
The Town Hall Cafe opened at this address in the summer of 1937. Entertainers in August 1937: Arthur Bell (Twin Cities), and Iola (New York). In October 1937 the new manager was Hobart T. Mitchell. In November 1937 it was redecorated in white and maroon with red tapestry and oil paintings.
Peggy’s Bar-B-Q – “For Food That Is Out of This World.” In 1948 the proprietor was Neil Berman. The undated Tribune article said that Peggy’s had “a cigarette machine that dispensed booze by the pint instead of tobacco.”
Again quoting the Trib, “For a year or so, in the late ’50s, it was a fag joint.”
At some point in about 1956 – ’57 it was Big Daddy’s jazz venue.
In 1961 it became Big Al’s, with jazz groups upstairs and downstairs in 1964. To get upstairs patrons had to climb a rickety fire escape. Did someone say that Big Al was a chicken sexer? In 1964 they also instituted “Blue Monday” jam sessions during the day on Mondays. In 1967 it was owned by Lloyd Beck and Dave Rooney, who performed with his trio. The 1967 ads say “Where it’s Always Swingin.'” The building was decorated with cartoons. The article noted that the “smoky, second-floor piano lounge” was the haven of “married men with their girlfriends and no one said anything. It was a joint where black and white people mixed on the stage as well as at the little white tables and there were never any fights or problems. The police never had to hang around. There would be a hooker there every now and then, but she would usually be there with her pimp and they were there to enjoy the jazz, not to hustle. It was the kind of a place that tourists would have liked, but they didn’t know about it because it was off the avenue.” It was demolished to make way for 35W.
I’m sorry, I don’t know where these photos came from, but they are remarkable!