YPA 2013 Top 10 – #3 – Crawford Grill No. 2

Photo courtesy of Demian Aspinwall

The Crawford Grill was opened in 1943 as the companion to the first Crawford Grill, which closed after a fire in 1952. A major center for black social life in the Hill, it was owned by William A. (Gus) Greenlee, who was an owner of the Negro League’s Pittsburgh Crawfords baseball team. Notable musicians like Walt Harper, Dizzy Gillespie, Mary Lou Williams, John Coltrane, and Art Blakey played here. The Crawford Grill went through a renaissance in the mid-1990s, but eventually closed in 2002 due to sewage and electrical problems, moving to Station Square and eventually closing for good in 2005.

The Crawford Grill has been vacant since its closing, but a group of four private investors, including Franco Harris, and three nonprofits plan to resurrect the old jazz mecca. They bought the building in 2010, saving it from becoming a parking lot, and have been working to raise roughly 3 million dollars to restore the interior. The group hopes to begin restoration in the next 12 to 18 months once the funds are raised.

Their plan is to reopen the venue as a jazz education and performance center, preserving the original bar and stage. Restoring the Crawford Grill is an important step in restoring vitality to the Hill District and honoring Pittsburgh’s jazz legacy.