By Deborah Bailey, Special to the AFRO

Big changes are on the way for Baltimore’s Arch Social Club on Pennsylvania Avenue.  The oldest African-American men’s social club in the nation, will receive $118,000, for being named one of 11 winners of the 2018 Partners in Preservation: Main Streets Campaign, sponsored by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and American Express.

“What’s happening on Pennsylvania Avenue is important,” said Van Anderson, who has presided over  the Arch Social Club for more than a decade.

Anderson said Arch Social Club, Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle, “Lady” Brion Grill and other groups and individuals, have formed a coalition to champion the revival of the historic Penn-North community as a hub of African-American culture and entertainment.  The grant from the 2018 Partners in Preservation competition will be used to create an anchor that helps reconnect Pennsylvania Ave. to its historic roots.

The legendary Arch Social Club of Pennsylvania Ave., recently received a grant to make major renovations. (Courtesy photo)

“We are going to install a movie marquee,” Anderson told the AFRO. “ When people hit Pennsylvania and North Avenue, we want them to  know they have entered the beginning of an arts and entertainment district,” he said.

The Arch Social Club was one of 20 historic sites that received preservation work selected by Partners in Preservation this summer. American Express and th the club received more than 40,000 votes from Baltimoreans, Marylanders and people across the country who determined the final list of 11 prize winners.  The Partners in Preservation competition is designed to create public awareness about preservation of the nation’s historic sites.

“We are humbled to be included among esteemed nationally known historic sites across America,” Anderson said.

The list of award recipients also included the National Women’s Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls NY, site of the first Women’s Rights Convention in 1844, and Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, site of the infamous 1963 bombing that killed four young African-American girls.

“This causes a shift,” said Adrian Harpool, who helped Arch Social Club generate public awareness of the Partners in Preservation. “This award gives us a new level of visibility. Now we see that people want a vibrant Black cultural life in Baltimore.”

Harpool confirmed that the $118,000 grant is the first step toward a major renovation and endowment campaign.  “Our ultimate goal is a major capital upgrade of the facility. We want to restore the facility as a hub for music, dance, civic and social events,” Harpool said.

Arch Social Club will host a celebration for the Partners in Preservation recognition and kick off the capital campaign in December.  “Our ultimate goal is to raise $3.2 million to expand and upgrade the facility and create a cultural hub fitting for Pennsylvania Avenue’s new arts district,” Anderson said.