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Another act comes to the former Odell’s nightclub on North Avenue

A North Avenue building that once housed the celebrated Odell’s nightclub is poised for another life.

Two nonprofits, Young Audiences of Maryland and Code in the Schools, will be the new tenants in this solidly constructed building about to undergo a $7 million renovation.

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“Young Audiences transforms the lives and education of our youth through the arts by connecting educators, professional artists, and communities,” according to its mission statement. Code in Schools seeks to connect Baltimore City students “with access to high-quality computer science education.”

Stacie Sanders Evans, the CEO of Young Audiences, called it “the opportunity to build the space of our dreams.”

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“We can host professional development for teachers and artists as well workshops for young people,” Sanders Evans said. “While we are a statewide organization, our deepest work is with Baltimore City.

“We integrate the arts into classroom learning by pairing community artists with classroom teachers. We partner with literary, theater, dance, music and visual artists. In many cases we underwrite what it costs to bring a professional artist into a school.”

Both nonprofits needed more space, and the location near the Baltimore City Public Schools headquarters was a plus, she said.

Built in 1909 by Albert V. Tuttle, the nightclub building also has functioned as both a dance academy and an automobile showroom.

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The place, with its Tudor Revival facade, was designed by architect Charles Anderson, who was active in residential construction in Roland Park.

The concept of an upscale dancing venue served by the city’s streetcar network made Tuttle Hall a natural. City College seniors booked it for their senior prom in 1912. The place hosted a neighborhood dance, the Fortnightly Saturday Cotillon, for a number of years.

Women seeking the right to vote used the hall to raise funds for their campaigns at a dance. The Sun noted in 1914 that one of the suffragettes’ featured pieces were the current dance crazes, the hesitation waltz and the tango.

Patrons walked a flight up to Tuttle’s Academy, a dancing school.

The first floor housed Robbins Fox Motors, a Buick and Marquette automobile dealership, in the 1930s.

By the mid-1950s the place had become the Capri Three nightclub and was operated by Cy Bloom, who was long associated with Baltimore’s evening entertainment scene. Bloom had a long run; he was finally chased out of business when his Place in the Alley closed because of subway construction more than 40 years ago.

Entrepreneur Odell Brock opened his nightclub there in 1976 at the height of the disco era. The place changed hands until it closed in 1992 — and remained vacant since.

At the height of its amazing popularity, Odell’s attracted a huge crowd. Police had trouble convincing the dancers to call it night in the early hours of Sunday morning.

“Many people think about Odell’s and its vibrancy,” Sanders Evans said. “We want to inject that same vibrant spirit into learning. I like the long history in this building, the creativity, community and joy.”

The first block of East North Avenue was once a place lined with popular businesses.

Next door to the Tuttle-Odell building was an Oriole Cafeteria, later repurposed into a home of Center Stage. Harry Hasslinger’s seafood house and George Doebereiner’s famous bakery were on the block.

An early movie house, which became the Aurora theater, is now the Solid Rock Church. The BeLer family operated the North Inn before sons Nick and Peter “Buzz” BeLer opened their own establishment, the Prime Rib, at Calvert and Chase, not far from an earlier home of Young Audiences of Maryland.

The renovation project is the work of developers Jubilee Baltimore and Samuel Polakoff. The financing has closed and work to reopen the old Odell’s-Tuttle doors, closed since the early 1990s, begins next week.

No trace of the old maple dance floor survives.

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