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  • Writer's pictureJen Childs

Vanity Ballroom: How a Detroit neighborhood is restoring its landmarks and livelihood

Like other ballrooms in the city, the Vanity had shops on the first floor, and dancing on the second.

During the rise of America’s auto industry, Detroit, Michigan – the Motor City itself – was also known as a center for popular music. Jazz acts like Cab Calloway, Duke Ellington, Miles Davis – and later on – Rockers like the Velvet Underground, Detroit’s own MC5 and The Stooges were all regular features at the city’s legendary ballrooms.

Built in the 1920s with a distinct Aztec theme, the Vanity Ballroom is at the heart of the Jefferson-Chalmers, a working class African-American neighborhood on Detroit’s lower east side.

But, as the fortunes of Detroit declined, so did those of the Vanity and the neighborhood around it. The ballroom has been abandoned for about 30 years.

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