A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006. Now a Popeyes fast food restaurant on Google Maps.

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Entry from January 13, 2010
Gay White Way (Broadway)

Broadway has been called “The Great White Way” since 1902. On October 7, 1907—after performances in Philadelphia—the musical The Gay White Way opened at the Casino Theatre. The term “Gay White Way” frequently replaced “Great White Way” as a Broadway nickname of the theatre district.

The word “gay” began to mean “homosexual” in the the 1950s-1960s. Also in the 1950s-1960s, the Broadway musical was ending its greatest influence on American culture and headed into decline, partly caused by the rise of television viewing. “Gay White Way” is seldom used today; if it is used, it usually refers to the homosexual use of the word “gay.”

Wikipedia: Broadway (New York City)
Broadway, as the name implies, is a wide avenue in New York City, which runs the full length of Manhattan and continues into the Bronx. It is the oldest north–south main thoroughfare in the city, dating to the first New Amsterdam settlement. The name Broadway is the English literal translation of the Dutch name, Breede weg. A stretch of Broadway is famous as the pinnacle of the American theater industry.

Internet Broadway Database
The Gay White Way
Casino Theatre, (10/7/1907 - 1/4/1908)
Opening: Oct 7, 1907
Closing: Jan 4, 1908 Total Performances: 105
Category: Musical, Revue, Original, Broadway
Description: A revue in three acts
Setting: Garden of Rooseveltia; Metropolitan Opera House; Murray’s, New York
Opening Night Production Credits
Produced by Sam S. and Lee Shubert, Inc.
Music by Ludwig Englander; Book by Sydney Rosenfeld and James Clarence Harvey; Lyrics by Sydney Rosenfeld and James Clarence Harvey; Featuring “Merry-Go-Round” by Louis A. Hirsch and E. Ray Goetz; Featuring “Somebody’s Been ‘Round Here” by John W. Bratton and Paul West; Featuring “If You Must Make Eyes at Someone” by Leo Edwards and Matt Woodward; Featuring “Dixie Dan” by Seymour Furth and Will D. Cobb; Featuring “My Irish Gibson Girl” by Jean Schwartz and William Jerome; Musical Director: Frank P. Paret
Staged by R.H. Burnside; Dances arranged by Ralph Post
Costume Design by Castel-Bert, Mme. Lubin and Mme. Ripley; Scenic Design by Arthur Voegtlin

15 September 1907, Philadelphia (PA) Inquirer, pg. 11A (ad):
in the Acme of Musical Entertainment
“The Gay White Way”

Chronicling America
22 September 1907, New-York (NY) Daily Tribune, magazine, pg. 6, col. 2:
“The Gay White Way,” the next attraction at the Casino, will be performed for the first time in Philadelphia to-morrow night.

OCLC WorldCat record
When the gay white way was dark, and other stories.
Author: Henry Collins Brown
Publisher: New York. : Valentine’s Manual, inc., 1923, ©1922.
Series: Valentine’s manual of old New York, No. 7, new series, 1923
Edition/Format: Book : English

OCLC WorldCat record
Darktown has a gay white way.
Author: Shelton Brooks
Publisher: ©1923.
Edition/Format: Musical score : English

OCLC WorldCat record
The gay white way.
Author: Elmer Rice
Publisher: [C1928]
Edition/Format: Book : English

Google Books
Volume 2, Issues 4-7
Pg. 98:
The nature of their work being especially adapted to concocting clever names for places, they have divided their own “Noo Yawk” into the Stem, the (Main) Drag, the Artery, Maraudway, the Milky Way, the Galaxy, the Gay White Way, the Dirty White Way, the Big or Main Alley, the Grandest Canyon, the Glittering Stem, Mazda Lane, Neon Boulevard, the (Big) Gulch, Gin Gulch, the Noisy Lane, the Street, Wailing Wall Street, the (Grand) Canyon, the Golden Canyon, Hard Times Square, Pokahvenoo, the Roaring Forties, the Naughty Nineties, Mad-hattan, etc., etc.

Google Books
The City in Slang: New York Life and Popular Speech
By Irving Lewis AllenNew York, NY: Oxford University Press
Pg. 59:
Yet the name might have emerged in popular speech about 1900 or earlier and referred first to the bright, white lights above, not to white snow beneath. might have been just a specification of white way—any street of white lights—and took the modifier Great, much as Gay soon modified the expression in The Gay White Way, a form popular after about 1910.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityStreets • Wednesday, January 13, 2010 • Permalink