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Every Picture Tells A Story: Remembering Detroit's Paradise Valley at Coaches Corner

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At Coaches Corner in Detroit, they celebrate goals. They celebrate home runs. They celebrate touchdowns. As the self-anointed No. 1 sports bar in Detroit – a claim that’s often seconded by media outlets and bar patrons, by the way – Coaches Corner is one of the city’s many prime locations to catch a Red Wings, Tigers, Lions or Pistons game.

Photos of jazz greats line the staircase at Coaches Corner.
Photos of jazz greats line the staircase at Coaches Corner.
Ken Welsch


But the bar in the Harmonie Park/Paradise Valley district in downtown Detroit also tips a subtle hat to the jazz greats who once played in clubs that once lived in the nearby Paradise Valley (or Black Bottom) district on Detroit’s near east side. The next time you’re at Coaches Corner, look past the many sports posters and flat screens to see the large black-and-white photographs that line the staircase leading to the bar’s loft area. They’re even more special when you learn a little about the region’s history.


From the 1920s through the 1950s, Detroit’s Paradise Valley was akin to New York’s Harlem and Chicago’s Bronzeville, a center for the majority of the city’s black population, known worldwide for its lively music scene. Venues like the Paradise Theater (further out on Woodward) and smaller, closer-to-downtown clubs like Club ElSino, brought in big-name performers like Duke Ellington, Pearl Bailey, Ella Fitzgerald and Count Basie.


The area stretched past what is now Ford Field and Comerica Park, and east to what is now Lafayette Park. The addition of the freeways through Detroit changed the landscape forever, but as Detroiters continue reinvent the future of downtown, there’s been a push to embrace its past. Nice to learn that, even at a sports bar, people of historical significance in Detroit aren’t all named Howe, Kaline or Lanier. 


SEE THEM FOR YOURSELF: Visit Coaches Corner at 1465 Centre St. in Detroit. It’s located at the corner of Centre and Grand River a block off Broadway.

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