Denver Darious (Feb.19, 1895-May 11, 1957) and Sea Harious (Dec. 22, 1899-Mar. 3. 1974). Denver Darious and Sea Harious Ferguson were African American leaders within the Jazz and entertainment scene along Indiana Avenue. The brothers were born to Samuel H. and Mattie Whitney Ferguson in Brownsville, Kentucky (Edmonson County). In Brownsville, Denver Ferguson, a journalist, founded the Edmonson Star News in 1916. In 1919, following his service in World War I, Denver Ferguson moved to Indianapolis and started a printing company that soon handled the printing of lottery and sports tickets. Sea Ferguson followed him to work at his printing company in 1924.

Sea Ferguson (far left) and others at the newly opened Sea Ferguson’s Fun Bowl, 1942 Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source

In the 1930s, the Ferguson Brothers began opening a string of jazz and entertainment clubs. Their clubs included the Trianon Ballroom, at 244 West Vermont Street, which opened in 1931, and the four-story Cotton Club, at Senate and Vermont, which opened in 1933. They opened two clubs along Indiana Avenue in 1937: the Royal Palm Gardens and Sunset Terrace Ballroom.

They also founded the Ferguson Brothers’ Booking Agency (also known as F. Brothers Booking Agency), which brought nationally recognized musicians to their clubs and Indianapolis, including Freddie Hubbard, Duke Ellington, and J. J. Johnson. The booking agency quickly grew to become one of the largest African American-owned entertainment agencies in the country.

The Sunset Terrace on Indiana Avenue owned by brothers Denver and Sea Ferguson, ca. 1953 Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source

The brothers also opened and operated the Ferguson Hotel located at 11th  and Capitol. In 1941, Sea, an officer of the National Negro Bowling Association, opened the Fun Bowl, a bowling alley, on West Street. Sea reportedly was the third African American to build a bowling center.

Following the decline of Indiana Avenue in the 1950s, the Ferguson brothers slowly closed their clubs. The Ferguson brothers impacted the community and entertainment scene in Indianapolis for decades. Their work made Indianapolis a premier location for entertainment for white and Black citizens and helped to established it as a regional jazz center.

Revised March 2021

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