“I’m looking for a pool hall that used to be on 14th street on the east side. I’m not sure what of its name. It was open at least as late as 1989, and it was next to a nightclub. Can you tell me the name of the hall?”
This was an interesting reference challenge. Normally when one is faced with a business name question, it’s as simple as heading to the yellow pages or reverse directory (also known as an address directory) for the time period in question. Without an exact address, however, using a reverse directory would be a cumbersome prospect, and without an exact date, searching the yellow pages for pool halls in New York could become an exercise in microfilm-searching annoyance. I decided to have fun with this one and give myself the extra challenge of limiting my sources to online databases.
Fifteen minutes later I had the answer: the Julian Billiard Academy, at 138 East 14th Street, between 3rd and 4th Avenues, on the second floor, and right next to The Palladium
concert hall and nightclub. This was certainly the one!
From my source I also learned that a hall opened in that spot around 1916, that the Julian family opened their business in 1933, and that 55 years later they were still the owners. I even learned their 1988 hourly rates: $3 for one player, $3.50 for two.
I also learned a little about the history of billiards in New York: that pool as a leisure activity saw its heyday in the 1920s, with “hundreds of halls” in Manhattan, dwindling to 24 in 1961 and only 2 in early 1987. The sport saw a small resurgence in popularity in the late 1980s with the 1986 release of the movie “The Color of Money
,” and as of November 1988 there were 6 halls in the borough.
1988 was the last year for which I found any mention of the Julian Billiard Academy, so my patron was probably dead-on with that 1989 date.
So what was my source? It was pretty simple, really. I reasoned that a business like a pool hall was likely to advertise in local newspapers, so I headed to the New York Times online database
and searched for “pool hall” and “14th street,” setting the date delimiter at “before 1/1/1990.” One of the first articles produced gave me the name, which allowed me to search again for any mention of the pool hall. The results I found were the articles below.
Right in the corner pocket!