Someplace Fannie Mae Duncan is smiling.
The Black entrepreneur’s well-known jazz joint, the Cotton Membership, which opened within the ’50s and was torn down in 1975 as a part of an city renewal program, is about to reincarnate downtown. Not at 25 W. Colorado Ave., the place her authentic membership stood, throughout from the Antlers lodge, however on the third ground of The Gold Room at 18 S. Nevada Ave.
“We need to keep true to the genres Fannie used to usher in,” mentioned Gold Room proprietor Evan Hooton. “However with how numerous Colorado Springs has change into, we’ll entertain all genres of music. Some could not totally match, however we do need to keep true to Fannie Mae’s authentic Cotton Membership outreach, which was jazz.”
Hooton hopes to open the 8,000-square-foot Cotton Membership in June. Together with the brand new efficiency area will come a Fannie Mae Duncan Lounge on the second ground of the 1933 artwork deco constructing and a 5,000-square-foot rooftop lounge with fireplace pits. The modifications would require some repurposing of the 30,000-square-foot constructing, together with the potential addition of an elevator to the fourth- ground rooftop lounge. The primary-floor Gold Room, at present an leisure venue, will keep put, however Hooton plans to transition the room right into a small enterprise occasion area.
Since forming in 2005, the Pikes Peak Variety Council, a nonprofit that advocates for variety and inclusion, has labored to hold on Duncan’s mission, says Shirley Martinez, the council’s vice chairman. With out a bodily venue just like the Cotton Membership, she mentioned “one thing has been lacking.
“It is about making one thing brick and mortar and making one thing that folks can see and really feel,” Martinez mentioned. “It is about bringing it (The Cotton Membership) again to life.”
Duncan introduced scores of necessary Black musicians to her membership, the place she was recognized for the black-and-white check in her entrance window that learn ‘Everyone Welcome.” There was Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, B.B. King, Nat King Cole, Billie Vacation, Etta James, Sammy Davis Jr. and Fat Domino.
It was a time when The Broadmoor and Antlers motels solely allowed white performers. Duncan’s was the primary enterprise to permit patrons of all races.
That had a huge impact, says Martinez.
“It opened the doorways for folks to return in, have fun, sing and luxuriate in completely different cultures,” she mentioned. “It was a spot for folks to go to really feel welcome.”
The Springs is wealthy with jazz musicians, says Hooton, although there hasn’t been a devoted jazz membership downtown for at the least a decade. Lately he is featured native jazz teams on Thursday nights at The Gold Room, with the hopes of constructing a following that he can switch to the Cotton Membership. His imaginative and prescient for the brand new venue contains regional, nationwide and worldwide jazz teams.
“A lot of the jazz scene neighborhood is used to extra conventional jazz, just like the Pikes Peak Jazz and Swing Society,” mentioned Hooton. “They don’t know we’ve got Latin jazz, different jazz, clean jazz, swing jazz, huge band jazz, blues jazz, fusion teams — each jazz group or style you’ll be able to come throughout. I need to expose the total jazz scene we’ve got occurring in Colorado Springs. The expertise we’ve got undoubtedly must be acknowledged.”
The brand new Cotton Membership will probably be a spot the place every kind of jazz, and music, are celebrated.
“The place Fannie Mae owned is gone, however probably not,” Martinez mentioned. “It’s within the hearts and minds of people that had been there and within the hearts and minds of these us shifting that imaginative and prescient ahead.”
That features Hooton, who a couple of dozen years in the past started working with the Pikes Peak Variety Council on an annual Cotton Membership occasion. One of many occasions featured Denver blues and jazz singer Hazel Miller at Stargazers Theatre, which is owned by Hooton’s mother and father, Cindy and John Hooton. Quickly, such occasions will not be restricted to sooner or later of the 12 months.
“Day-after-day we’re including to the dialog,” Evan Hooton mentioned, “and the great issues to seize the historical past of Fannie Mae and everyone welcome and what she did with the Cotton Membership.”
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