Mural in the Pennsylvania Avenue Black Arts & Entertainment District of Baltimore, MD. Photo by Baltimore Heritage, 2018.

Historic Anchor Institutions of Baltimore’s Pennsylvania Avenue Black Arts and Entertainment District

02/17/2021
By Ruby Nwaebube

Maryland was one of the first states to coordinate support for cultural institutions and working artists with revitalization placemaking efforts as Arts & Entertainment Districts. One of the state’s 28 Arts & Entertainment Districts is focused specifically on Black culture; Pennsylvania Avenue Black Arts & Entertainment District in West Baltimore.

In the early to mid-20th century, Baltimore’s Pennsylvania Avenue was the epicenter for Black art and entertainment businesses including venues, clubs, restaurants, and hotels. However, redlining, blockbusting, and racially restrictive covenants led to decades of disinvestments in the area. More recently, one of the many community-driven revitalization measures was to nominate the area as an Arts & Entertainment District with the State of Maryland. The program offers tax benefits to artists, supports tourism and bricks-and-mortar property improvements, and becomes eligible for funding from the Maryland State Arts Council.

In 2019, a mile and a half along Pennsylvania Avenue became the Pennsylvania Avenue Black A&E District. The process and the ongoing management and marketing of the district is lead by the Upton Planning Committee with many public and private partners, including but not limited to: Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle, Historic Pennsylvania Avenue Main Street, Druid Heights Community Development Corporation, Arch Social Club, Arch Social Club Community Network, Councilman Leon Pinkett, Fight Blight Bmore, Avenue Bakery, Neighborhood Design Center, and the University of Baltimore and the Department of Transportation.

Pennsylvania Avenue Black A&E District sees the positive financial impacts and the response of preserving Black culture and legacy of the area. Based on a 2018 economic report, Maryland’s 28 Arts & Entertainment Districts have collectively supported more than $1 billion in state GDP, approximately $72.1 million in state and local tax revenues, created almost 10,000 jobs, and paid more than $320 million in wages. Creating in A&E Districts and Pennsylvania Avenue specifically, focuses funding initiatives and development incentives into areas of wrongful disinvestment. Recognition as an Arts & Entertainment District is a milestone in the revitalization of Pennsylvania Avenue as a hub of Black culture in Maryland.

When you visit the Pennsylvania Avenue Black A&E District, make sure to visit these seven community anchor institutions:

Arch Social Club, Baltimore, MD, 2016.

Arch Social Club, Baltimore, MD, 2016.

Arch Social Club
2426 Pennsylvania Avenue
Baltimore, MD 21217

Founded in 1905 and incorporated on March 15, 1912, the Arch Social Club is a Black civil societal institution. Its founding members are Raymond A. Coates, Jeremiah S. Hill, and Sam L. Barney. These men wanted to create a haven for Black men to discuss racial issues occurring in the city. The club attracted a broad group of the Black population from different religions, political affiliations, and class backgrounds. Today, many scholars believe that it is the oldest known operated African American men’s club in the United States. Whether this speculation is true or not, the Arch Social is the last remaining venue for live entertainment in Pennsylvania Avenue commercial strip.

Harris Marcus Center, Pennsylvania Avenue, Baltimore, MD. Photo from Next City.

Jubilee Arts/Harris Marcus Center
1947 Pennsylvania Avenue
Baltimore, MD 21217

Jubilee Arts is a program that teaches different types of art to youths and adults in Sandtown-Winchester, Upton, and surrounding neighborhoods in Baltimore. These classes are in partnership with the Maryland Institute College of Arts (MICA). The Harris Marcus Center, under Jubilee Arts, offers civic spaces for community events. JA was founded in 1996 by Elder CW Harris and local renowned jazz musician Todd Marcus.

Skaters at Shake & Bake on Penncylvania Avenue in Baltimore, MD. Photo by Jen Jean Pierre on Instagram.

Shake and Bake Family Fun Center
1601 Pennsylvania Ave
Baltimore, MD 21217

Shake & Bake Family Fun Center or “The Bake” has been a local iconic Bowling and Roller Skating spot since 1982. Named after Baltimore Colts wide receiver Glenn “Shake & Bake” Doughty, this center is owned and operated by the Baltimore City Recreation and Parks (BCRP).

Upton Boxing in the Pennsylvania Avenue Arts & Entertainment District of Baltimore City, MD. Photo by Upton Boxing.

Upton Boxing Center
1901 Pennsylvania Ave
Baltimore, MD 21217

Founded in early 2000, Upton Boxing Center provides all ages access to take boxing classes. Founder Calvin Ford is the inspiration behind ex-con turned boxing gym owner Dennis “Cutty” Wise from The Wire.  Ford would later train Gervonta Davis, the four-time super featherweight champion for the International Boxing Affiliation (IBF).

Pennsylvania Avenue Branch of the Pratt Library. Photo from the Pratt Library.

Enoch Pratt Free Library
1531 W North Ave
Baltimore, MD 21217

Previously known as the Easterwood Branch from 1914 to 1953, the Pennsylvania Avenue Branch is the designated anchor library for West Baltimore residents. The library has gone through renovation over the past few decades. Today, visitors are greeted by Penny, a mural of a child reading a book.

Capital Lounge & Restaurant
1531 Pennsylvania Ave
Baltimore, MD 21217

Capital Lounge & Restaurant sits at the center of Pennsylvania Avenue. As a multi-level lounge, it has served and helped the community connect to jazz culture through food for over a decade. This restaurant has witnessed different seasons of life in the area, yet it still has remained a fixed and vital place.

The Avenue Market
1700 Pennsylvania Ave
Baltimore, MD 21217

The Avenue Market is a historic market that was one of the earliest buildings developed in Pennsylvania Avenue in 1871. As a culturally iconic site, the market survived many obstacles, from a structure fire to urban renewal in the 1970s. These obstacles showcase the continuous resilience and adaptability of West Baltimore residents.

VISIT PENNSYLVANIA AVENUE

LEARN MORE ABOUT A&E DISTRICTS

Ruby Nwaebube · Advocacy Associate

Ruby works to expand the advocacy capacity of the organization as well as researching innovative policy solutions to smart growth and preservation challenges at the local, state, and federal level. Ruby is a graduate of the University of Virginia and prior to joining the Preservation Maryland team enjoyed a diverse range of experiences from documenting African-American historical sites to developing augmented reality and educational simulation games.

Meet Our Team
Our Story Donate Press & Media Resources Contact Us Site by Younts Design Inc. © Preservation Maryland, 2021.