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A new look and life for a North Avenue landmark built in the 1900s

The North Avenue building that once housed Odell’s nightclub is sporting a fresh guise and has a new purpose. It is the home of two nonprofits, Young Audiences of Maryland/Arts for Learning and Code in the Schools.

It’s taken most of this year to rehabilitate this solid landmark located at 29 E. North Ave. The structure was constructed in 1909 of concrete and somehow, against the odds, one of its original diamond-shaped paned windows survived.

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A set of windows was duplicated as part of the current $7 million renovation and the interior, which held the celebrated Odell’s discotheque 40 years ago, has been retrofitted for the use of the two new tenants.

“I can’t imagine another home for us,” said Stacie Sanders Evans, president and CEO of Young Audiences of Maryland/Arts for Learning.

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Recalling the building’s previous life as Odell’s, and its founder Odell Brock, she added: “The most meaningful part of this project has been getting to know the Brock family and understanding how important Odell’s was in the community.”

She also said: “The Brock family is sharing artifacts, clothing, memorabilia and stories with us that will be incorporated as a permanent display in our offices. Odell’s tagline was ‘You’ll know if you belong.’ We honor that spirit everyday by creating a sense of belonging in classrooms through the arts.”

Adam McCreesh of McCreesh Slate Roofing of Baltimore rehabs the terra cotta roof system of the Odell’s building at 21 E. North Ave on Nov. 11, 2021. The building is being converted to an arts and technology hub.
Adam McCreesh of McCreesh Slate Roofing of Baltimore rehabs the terra cotta roof system of the Odell’s building at 21 E. North Ave on Nov. 11, 2021. The building is being converted to an arts and technology hub. (Barbara Haddock Taylor/Baltimore Sun)

The building had been vacant for nearly 30 years and looked worse for the wear until the current transformation began. A few weeks ago, a new color scheme went on the façade.

“We stood outside the building with a fan deck of paint chips,” said Quinn Evans architect Diane Cho, who was responsible for the exterior design.

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“The building is not on the sunny side of the street and we wanted something to be playful and colorful without being too corny. We took a bit of a risk. We wanted something that was not too bland for North Avenue,” she said.

She said she stood on the street with Jim Smith, a fellow Quinn Evans architect, and Charles Duff, president of Jubilee Baltimore.

The result was a warm gray, a Sherwin-Williams paint color called “sea life” and an eye-catching yellow, “semolina” with two other hues on the first floor: “ebony slate” and “maritime white.”

The colorful scheme attracts the eye and brightens the street. The colors also seem appropriate because students will be the focus of the use of the building.

The three picked the colors just three weeks ago and the painters got busy immediately as a crew from Southway Builders completed the transformation.

“We wanted to brighten the street. We wanted people to to smile when they saw it and we wanted to respect the historic integrity of the building,” said Duff, a developer of the project.

The Odell’s building at 21 E. North Ave. is being converted to an arts and technology hub. Southway Builders is the general contractor.
The Odell’s building at 21 E. North Ave. is being converted to an arts and technology hub. Southway Builders is the general contractor. (Barbara Haddock Taylor/Baltimore Sun)

Albert V. Tuttle, a business owner and dance instructor, had the place constructed in 1909. He had his dancing academy on the upper floors and an automobile dealership on the first floor.

The building, made of poured concrete, was Tudor Revival in design (with a half-timbering effect and the diamond windows) yet constructed to the robust standards of an automobile garage.

In the 1930s, it housed Robbins Fox Motors, a Buick and Marquette automobile dealership. Night club owner Cy Bloom came in the 1950s and opened his Capri Three, a bar and entertainment venue.

It then became Pappy’s Beef and Beer, popular with Maryland Institute College of Art students. Entrepreneur Odell Brock opened his dance club in 1976 at the height of the Saturday Night Fever era. The place changed hands until it closed in 1992.

The renovation project is the work of developers Jubilee Baltimore and Samuel Polakoff.

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