The Arch Social Club, one of the oldest continually operating African-American men’s clubs in the country, was today named one of 11 Main Street sites to receive a grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
The announcement comes following a public voting campaign among 20 finalists on National Geographic’s web site, which received more than 1 million votes from across the country.
A total of $1.6 million will be distributed to the 11 winning projects. Germonique Ulmer, a spokesperson for the National Trust for Historic Preservation, said the club has received $118,000, based on the cost of the project.
According to a release from the National Trust, Arch Social Club members will use the money to construct a new marquee, install exterior lighting and help launch an arts district along Pennsylvania Avenue, a street once filled with jazz clubs and performance spaces for African-American artists.
For this year’s Partners in Preservation campaign, the trust and its corporate partners sought to preserve sites celebrating “diversity and the struggle for equality.” According to a biography on the club’s page, the Arch Social Club was founded in 1905, at the height of Jim Crow, as a gathering place for African-American men to discuss the issues of the day and form bonds of fellowship.
In addition to holding performances by local luminaries such as jazz pianist Cyrus Chestnut, R&B group Dru Hill and rapper Tupac Shakur, the club was a pivotal civil rights site, hosting NAACP leaders such as Clarence and Juanita Mitchell, Thurgood Marshall and Charles Hamilton Houston.
Members now hope it will lead the way in the revitalization of the Pennsylvania Avenue corridor.
“As we launch a campaign to raise awareness and the funds required erect a ‘state of the art’ marquee at the entrance of the Arch Social Club, lighting the way for the progress to come, remember ‘It Starts at the Arch,'” the club’s site says.
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