In August the Philadelphia Historical Commission added 1946 N. 23rd Street to the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places. The property is socially and culturally significant as the family home of actress and singer Pearl Bailey.

Pearl Mae Bailey was born in March 1918 in Virginia. She moved to Philadelphia in the early 1930s with her mother and three siblings. Bailey spent her formative years here. She described 1946 N. 23rd Street as the house “where [her] career started.” 

Did you know…?

  • Pearl Bailey made her stage debut in 1933 at 15 years old. She won an amateur talent contest – and the five-dollar prize – at the aptly named Pearl Theater at Ridge Avenue and N. 21st Street.
  • Her big break came in 1944, when she was booked as a solo performer at the Village Vanguard, a popular New York club. Bailey’s popularity soared and she began headlining with such big bands as those led by Cootie Williams, Cab Calloway, Duke Ellington, and Count Basie.
  • In 1967, she earned a Tony Award for her performance in the title role of an all-Black Broadway rendition of “Hello, Dolly!” opposite Cab Calloway.
  • Bailey served as an “ambassador of love” and special delegate to the United Nations for the Ford, Reagan, and Bush administrations. In 1985, she completed a degree in theology from Georgetown University. President Reagan gave her the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1988.
  • A Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission historical marker in front of 1946 N. 23rd Street honors Bailey’s childhood home.

You can learn more about Pearl Bailey and her connection to Philadelphia in the nomination to designate her former home. The Historical Commission staff prepared the nomination.

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