Rockhead’s Paradise - Historic Places Days

Rockhead’s Paradise

Montréal, Québec
Historic Building

Rockhead’s Paradise was an iconic black-owned bar and Jazz Club in Little Burgundy Montreal from the 1930s to 70s.  

Rufus Rockhead, a Jamaican-born immigrant and World War One veteran, founded Rockhead’s in 1928 following eight years working as a sleeping car porter for the Canadian Pacific Railway. In the early years, Rockhead struggled against racial discrimination in order to acquire the proper permits to run his bar. According to author and historian Channon Oyeniran, it took 11 months to obtain a beer permit, and 5 more years to obtain a liquor license (Oyeniran 2018). Despite this, Rockhead’s Paradise was an intense success with many iconic musicians including Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, and Oscar Peterson performing at the venue.  

Not only was Rockhead’s one of the earliest black-owned bars in Montreal, but it is also known to be the earliest venue for what we know today as Drag performances. According to historian Viviane K. Namaste as early as the 1940s, Rockhead’s hosted popular performers Dick Montgomery, Malva Bolda and Billie McAllister (Namaste 2005).


Oyeniran, Channon. “Rockhead’s Paradise.” The Canadian Encyclopedia. Historica Canada. Article published October 16, 2018; Last Edited October 16, 2018. 

Namaste, Viviane K. C’était Du Spectacle! : L’histoire Des Artistes Transsexuelles À Montréal, 1955-1985. Studies on the History of Quebec = Études D’histoire Du Québec, 17. Montréal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2005.

This listing was created by Christiane-Marie Cantwell, Assistant Archivist at the Archives Gaies du Québec and Audrey Gray, Project Officer at the National Trust for Canada. 

Founded in 1983, the Quebec Gay Archives have a mandate to acquire, conserve and preserve any handwritten, printed, visual or audio material which testify to the history of the LGBTQ+ communities of Quebec. The Quebec Gay Archives play an essential role as a guardian of LGBTQ2S+ history, through its conservation  of archival fonds and collections, its organization of public events and by welcoming researchers and visitors to its reading room. Researchers can consult their collections on weekdays by appointment at”

Please confirm details at the site’s own website before planning your visit. Are you the owner/operator of this historic place? Would you like to make changes to this listing? Please contact us at


Get directions

Nearby Places

The Angel of Victory – (L’Ange de la Victoire) | Windsor Station, Montreal

Montréal, Québec
The Angel of Victory Statue, commemorating fallen (CPR) employees in WW1
View Place | Get Directions

Windsor Station – National Historic Site of Canada, 1975

Montréal, Québec
Windsor Station built between 1888-1924 for the Canadian Pacific Railway.
View Place | Get Directions

Place du Canada, 1967 ( Dorchester Square ) 1878

Montréal, Québec
An important Historic Park featuring monuments relevant to the history of Montreal.
View Place | Get Directions

St. George’s Anglican Church (National Historic Site of Canada, 1990), Montreal, Qc

Montréal, Québec
St. George’s Anglican Church (National Historic Site of Canada, 1990), Montreal, Qc
View Place | Get Directions

Popular VisitLists Including "Rockhead’s Paradise"

Queering the Historic Places Days

Edmonton, Alberta to Halifax, Nova Scotia 30 places
A list of places that tell Queer histories of resistance, celebration and community. 
View VisitList

Register A Place

Create an account to add your historic place.

Make a VisitList

Welcome! To get started on a VisitList, you’ll need to have an account with #HistoricPlacesDays.

Already have an account? to sign in.
We use your contact information to process your registration and correspond with you about the National Trust and its programs. You can unsubscribe at any time. We care about your privacy. Read our privacy statement.

Sign In

Sites that participate in #HistoricPlacesDays need to have an account.

Welcome! To get started on a new VisitList or to edit an existing one, you’ll need to have an account with #HistoricPlacesDays. Sign in below!

Not registered? Click here to create an account.

Forgot Password

Enter your email address to request a password reset.

to sign in.

Get the latest scoop on everything #HistoricPlacesDays – join our e-newsletter and never miss a beat.