Cultural Heritage Tours


Lower Dixwell Tour

Monterey Club

265–267 Dixwell Avenue


Vaudeville dancer Rufus Greenlee and partner. Courtesy Greater New Haven African American Historical Society.

The Monterey Club, a definitive part of New Haven Black history, was started by a former vaudeville performer, Rufus Greenlee in 1934. Beginning first as a restaurant, it became over the years a popular place to hear live jazz, and a major venue for jazz performers including Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, Charles Parker and John Coltrane. The jazz organist Johnny “Hammond” Smith recorded a live album, “Black Coffee,” there in 1962.

Rufus Greenlee died in 1963. In 1988, Greenlee’s daughters, Virginia Wells and Delores Greenlee, refurbished the Café. At the grand re-opening, Virginia declared: “The Monterey for these past 54 years has never belonged to anyone but the Greenlee family and the people of the Dixwell community in which it exists.” The Monterey Club closed permanently in 1991 but is memorialized in the Monterey Place Apartments which took its name.

  • Text source courtesy New Haven Notables, Colin Caplan, “This Town Could Swing,” New Haven Register, January 21, 2001, p. D1.

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