Updated: Sep 9, 2020
The former home of the big band jazz legend and Blues Brother, Cab Calloway, was demolished on the 5th of September. After disputes over protecting the West Baltimore home had caused a rift between members of the Calloway family.
Photographed by William Gottlieb, Columbia studio, New York, N.Y., ca. Mar. 1947
According to The Baltimore Sun, the demolition took place despite calls from members of Calloway’s family to preserve the West Baltimore house where the iconic singer, dancer, composer, and actor, lived in his teens. In March, demolition plans were initially announced but got swiftly headed off by Calloway’s family, local activists, and community members. They hoped to convince city officials that a historic landmark designation was earned and necessary for the artists former home. But, eventually city officials ruled in favour of the demolition of Calloway’s old home, along with all of the even-numbered houses on the 2200 block of Druid Hill Avenue.
“I knew it was going to happen, but when you lose your foundation, it’s kind of shaky,”
said Peter Brooks, a grandson of Calloway who advocated for the building’s preservation. He adds,
“The hope was that this could be an anchor for people in the neighborhood to brag about. The significance of his work is still in play…”.
Brooks couldn’t imagine the city taking similar steps with buildings significant to the respective histories of Baltimore’s other notable former residents, citing Edgar Allen Poe and Babe Ruth. Eventually, the members of the Calloway Family that ran his estate sided with the city, causing a rift in the family.
Calloway's time in Baltimore was considered foundational to his career. Calloway developed as a singer a honed his chops as a performer at the local nightclubs in Baltimore. After touring across the country, the Cab Calloway Orchestra was hired as the house band at Harlem’s legendary Cotton Club. From there, he went on to star in films and top the jazz charts as one of the era’s most influential recording artists.