Sphinx Club

Light and music onced poured out the windows and door of the Sphinx Club on Pennsylvania Avenue but only club members (and musicians) could get inside to enjoy the drinks and entertainment. Today, the building sits boarded-up and waiting on a planned redevelopment by the Druid Heights CDC to bring back music and life to the block.

In December 2002, Sevety-three-year-old jazz singer and educator Ruby Glover gave a tour of the Avenue to a Baltimore Sun reporter lamented the sight of the Sphinx Club sitting vacant. "It was always kept so well. Tilghman must be turning over in his grave." Charles Phillip Tilghman founded the club in 1946 and ran the business as an elegant private club up until his death in 1988. Tilghman recruited Furman L. Templeton, director of the Baltimore Urban League (with offices nearby at 1841 Pennsylvania Avenue), to chair of the club's advisory board. Glover recalled the scene:

There's nothing there that even gives you the image. It was always so pretty, so lit up. It really was a private club. And my impression was that it was for elite blacks. That was where they hung out. And you could always sing when you went in because they kept a house band, Chico Johnson and his organ trio and Earlene Reed, singing in there.

Ruby Glover recalled how musicians always went to the Sphinx Club right after nearby jazz venues, including Club Tijuana on Clifton Avenue, Red Fox on Fulton Avenue, and The Comedy Club and The Ubangi Club on Pennsylvania Avenue, closed for the night. She explained:

And whomever was down The Avenue performing, after the clubs closed that's where you went. Put on a good show in there. If you were a musician all you had to do is ring the bell. They'd tell you, 'Hey, come on in here, give us a little song.'

But four years after Charles Tilghman's death the "old Sphinx Club" shut down. By 2002, the Baltimore Sun described it as "dreary."

The building continued to remain vacant and boarded for over two decades. Fortunately, the Druid Heights Community Development Corporation is seeking to change that. In 2011, the Druid Heights CDC announced their plans to turn the building and an adjoining property into the Negro Baseball Museum and Restaurant—bringing new jobs and visitors to Avenue again.

Video

Entering the Sphinx Club
The camera follows a club member from Pennsylvania Avenue to the bar. ~ Source: Mid-Atlantic Regional Moving Image Archive (MARMIA) ~ Creator: WJZ-TV ~ Date: 1988
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Performance at the Sphinx Club
A jazz performance on a saxophone, drums, and keyboard. ~ Source: Mid-Atlantic Regional Moving Image Archive (MARMIA) ~ Creator: WJZ-TV ~ Date: 1988
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Images

Map

2107–2109 Pennsylvania Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21217