Eldorado Ballroom, the heart of jazz and blues in Houston’s Third Ward, undergoing $10M restoration
Long-planned renovations at the historic music venue began in March when crews started stripping down walls in the 10,000-square-foot space.
A beloved area venue once known as the heart of Houston’s Third Ward will undergo a nearly $10 million makeover.
Renovations at The Eldorado Ballroom began in March when construction crews started to strip down sheetrock and panel walls inside the 10,000-square-foot space, which will also be updated with new wiring, plumbing and mechanical systems, according to The Houston Chronicle.
A 5,000-square-foot annex featuring a cafe and green rooms for bands and bridal parties will also be constructed next to the neighboring Progress Amateur Boxing Association. It’s expected to be completed early next year.
Built in 1939, the Eldorado building is located in what was a thriving Black neighborhood on what was, at the time, a busy commercial corridor during segregation. The Art Moderne building had glass window storefronts on the first level, with space for five separate businesses. Over the years, it has been host to a pharmacy, furniture store, tailor, dry cleaners, barber, and more.
The Eldorado Ballroom was on the second floor, where Third Ward residents would witness performances by talents like James Brown, Ray Charles, Etta James, and even Elvis Presley. Many featured artists would first sing for white audiences, but a trip to the Eldorado was a rite of passage. The ballroom began to fall into disrepair after closing more than 50 years ago.
The building’s renovation has the support of historians and will feature custom windows that fit the original aesthetic. The designers will also create custom millwork and try to preserve much of its original pine floor.
“The Houston Swing Dance Society and Black stepping clubs had functions here,” Eureka Gilkey, executive director of Project Row Houses, told The Chronicle. “Texas Southern’s Black fraternities and Jack and Jill groups have had events here.”
“Third Ward has changed, but historic preservation the way Project Row Houses approaches it is the architectural manifestation of ‘what’s past is prologue,’” she said. “The Eldorado reflects a spectacular era of Black music and culture, as well as a pivotal and painful moment in American history. We are making a promise with this restoration — that in Third Ward, there will always be a space created by Black people that centers around art, culture, community and joy.”
Restoration efforts for the Eldorado have long been in the works. Community organizers began raising funds in 2012, with some funds coming from billionaire Rich Kinder, an energy magnate who, with his wife, Nancy, through their Kinder Foundation, has donated millions of dollars to Houston cultural projects.
“The Eldorado Ballroom is such a special place and the heart of Third Ward, and that’s enough for Nancy and me to support it,” Kinder said. “It will be a real center, not just for Third Ward, but for music in general. Emancipation Park is across the street and a new building is catty-corner to that. With this project, you’re adding a whole new dimension to Third Ward.”
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