Site 2 - Green Dot Barber Shop

Green Dot Barber Shop

609 S Jackson St

Audio on this page read by Camilo Estrada

Now, let’s jump ahead to the Green Book guide's era. This address was listed in the Green Book as the Green Dot Barber Shop.

Though it only appeared in the Green Book from 1948 - 1951, the Green Dot Barber Shop opened in 1933. A barber shop by day, after-hours it was a speakeasy featuring musical performances and bootleg alcohol.

At that time, people could purchase liquor for consumption at home or in private, but no one could legally buy cocktails. Federal Prohibition had just ended when the Green Dot opened, but Washington maintained severe restrictions on hard alcohol until 1948.

The announcement in the Northwest Enterprise, a Black-owned newspaper, regarding the Green Dot's opening described it as "decorated in green thruout [with] six chairs and the very latest in barber equipment. Transients and railroad men will find the Green Dot an ideal place to spend their leisure time in Seattle."

It advertised a 'card room attached' which likely indicated gambling. Pianist Palmer Johnson, who came to Seattle from Los Angeles in 1928, says he played with trumpet player Herman Grimes in 1940 at the Green Dot. During the day, says Johnson, Grimes “wrote horse race tickets” in the barber shop.

The business was also owned briefly by Felix Crane, a renowed figure in the night club world who owned the Black & Tan Club for an unknown period sometime in the mid-1920s. A 'Social Notes' column in the Northwest Enterprise teased Felix Crane about being out all night in his capacity as nightclub owner - "I see you always get home behind the milkman."

The business changed hands many times over the years, and it's not clear that all owners operated it dually as a barber shop and night club. In 1937, newspaper advertisements listed the proprietor as 'Vivian Cranshaw, expert manicurist'.

By the time it was first listed in the Green Book in 1948, it kept the name but operated a block away at 510 S Jackson. The restrictions on cocktails had just been lifted and its speakeasy days had almost certainly ended.

Both buildings in which the Green Dot operated are now gone; on the north side of the street, a parking lot inhabits the space, and on the south side of the street, a bank building built in 1973 has replaced what stood there prior.

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Newspaper text reads, "Felix Crane of Green Dot fame, I see you always get home behind the miklman. Some mornings he has taken his first nap when you get it."
Newspaper text. Headline reads "New Barber Shop Opens on Jackson" and describes the services and interior of the Green Dot.

Black Barbershops in Early Seattle

Barbering played a prominent role in early African-American businesses in Seattle. Seattle’s earliest-known Black resident was named Manuel Lopes and he worked as a barber and restaurateur. Lopes arrived in Seattle in 1852, just one year after the first white settlers arrived in the area and a full seventeen years before Seattle incorporated as a city. Lopes owned property and operated his own barbershop and restaurant. He was, therefore, an entrepreneur in business for himself - in 1852 Seattle. [Note: Some sources date Lopes' arrival in Seattle as 1858; we are working to track down the correct date.] This is a theme of the Black community in early Seattle for multiple reasons, especially employment discrimination and the overall limited number of businesses and industries operating in Seattle's early days.

To be in business for oneself was a way to earn decent money outside of the dynamic which limited other employment opportunities. But based on population at that time, most African-American owned barber shops catered to white men because the client base was much larger, and the barber shops sometimes refused to serve non-white men in an effort to retain those white clients. In the late 1800s, the Black community was not yet large enough to sustain businesses focused on serving Black clientele.

By 1864, Williams Hedges from Virginia had arrived and opened a ‘Hair Dressing and Shaving Saloon’. William Grose was another early Black resident who opened a restaurant called “Our House” in 1876 at First and Yesler, later followed by a hotel of the same name which ultimately burned down in the Great Fire of 1889.

Though barber shops and restaurants were common, Seattle’s early Black residents worked in a variety of professions. The first African-American lawyer was here by 1889 and the first Black studio photographer by 1892. African-Americans were publishing newspapers in Seattle by 1891, when Brittain Oxendine started The Seattle Standard.

Later Black-owned papers included The Seattle Republican, Cayton’s Weekly, and finally the Northwest Enterprise, which had a thirty-year run from from 1920 - 1950. Two of today’s local Black-owned papers have been operating for decades - The Facts launched in the early 1960s, and The Seattle Medium started in 1970.

By 1920, just under 3,000 Black people resided in Seattle, according to the US Census Bureau. By 1940, that population had grown by fewer than a thousand. Historian Dr. Quintard Taylor notes that “If World War I brought new opportunities to local African Americans, it did not prompt a wholesale migration to Seattle as occurred in northeastern and midwestern cities. The prospect of work in Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, and other northern industrial cities proved far more appealing than moving to distant Seattle.” Up until World War II, Seattle’s Black community was relatively small, but by 1945 the community numbered over 10,000 members.

While the earliest Black-owned businesses had to cater to whites mostly by necessity, as the community grew it became increasingly possible to sustain businesses which catered to Black clients. The Green Book directories help to capture this span of time, and this would have been the context for Ms. Cranshaw’s barber shop and salon here on Jackson Street.

In time, Black-owned barbershops and hair salons catering to African-Americans became community cornerstones just like they were - and are - across the country.

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