Future of former Beau Brummel Social Club looks bleak - Tucson News Now

Future of former Beau Brummel Social Club looks bleak

Beau Brummel Social Club (Source: Tucson News Now) Beau Brummel Social Club (Source: Tucson News Now)
TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

A demolition permit has been issued for the historic Beau Brummel Social Club at 1148 North Main.

It's the round building just north of Speedway, which has fallen on hard times and is now empty, the electricity and water have been turned off.

However, it has a rich history and some would like to see it preserved, repurposed, or remodeled.

Historian Ken Scoville is asking for a 30-day reprieve so that a buyer can be found who would be willing to put some money into it to save it.

Debi Chess Mabie is another who feels the building needs to be preserved. She is the Executive Director of the Tucson Arts Foundation and was instrumental in preserving Dunbar School, the last segregated school in Tucson.

"When you tear down structures, you also tear down the memories," she said. "You tear down the ability to physically see what happened there."

And a lot happened there. Here is an essay that outlines the history of the Beau Brummel Social Club.

Historic Name: Duke's Drive-In (1945/46) and Beau Brummel Social Club
Address: 1148 N. Main Avenue (1148 N. 12th Avenue) 
Construction Date: 1945/46 
Architect: Arthur T. Brown 

1148 N. Main Avenue was built by Duke Shaw as Duke’s Drive-In restaurant in 1946.  The building was designed by master Tucson architect Arthur T. Brown and featured in the October 1946 issue of Architectural Form magazine. Duke Shaw built a ten-unit motel just to the south of the restaurant to accommodate Africana American baseball players and visiting black entertainers who were refused lodging in the segregated hotels in downtown Tucson. In 1954 the restaurant was expanded and the Beau Brummel Club moved into a portion of the building.  By 1965 the restaurant had been renamed May's Place Restaurant . The Beau Brummel Club took over the entire building when the drive-in restaurant was shut down in the 1970s.  The property original held an L-shaped 11-unit motel which has been demolished. 

Beau Brummel Social Club 

The following is from Bob Ring’s essay Tucson Beau Brummel Club:

The Beau Brummel Club was established in 1936 by small group of African American men “who were refused entrance into Anglo social clubs of that era.” The founders included Colonel Reuben L. Horner III, one of the most decorated blacks of World War II, and Duke Shaw, who would later build and operate Dukes Drive-In. The Club was named after the iconic Beau Brummell who lived in England in the early 1800s and is famous for introducing modern men’s fashions, like the suit worn with a tie. For an unknown reason, the Club’s name “dropped” the second “l” in Brummell. 

Initially the group was limited to 15 men, supported education and social services in the African American community, and provided a sort of hospitality welcome for blacks new to Tucson. Club members started out meeting in each other’s houses, held a popular annual formal dance at the old Blue Moon ballroom (burned down in 1947), brought in entertainment like Louis Armstrong, and held picnics on Mount Lemmon and in Sabino Canyon. 

The Beau Brummel Club was also helpful in the integration of major league baseball. In 1947, starting a 15-year relationship with our town, Bill Veeck, owner of the Cleveland Indians, brought his newly integrated team to Tucson for spring training. The Pioneer Hotel, the team headquarters, had a strict “whites only” policy then so Dukes Drive-In became the place for black professional baseball players to eat and socialize. This included such Cleveland Indians stars as Larry Doby, Satchel Paige, and Harry “Suitcase” Simpson. 

The building is the last of its kind in Tucson, a round mid-20th century architecture.

The owner of the property, Danny Duke, the owner of Gemstone Mineral Interiors, said he would not tear it down over the weekend but made no promises after that.

He is selling the property and has no plans for restoration. No decision will be made until next week, after Jan. 1, 2018.

The building was also used in the Academy Award winning movie "Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore" in 1974. The interior diner scenes were shot in the small, iconic building.

If the building is not repurposed and demolition moves forward, Mabie says she would like to excavate the memories.

"You know like preserving the bar, preserving the carpet," she said. "There are things that are iconic in here."

Scoville is hoping for the best but is fighting a tight deadline.

"Just 30 days," he said. If we can't find somebody in 30 days, we're probably not going to save it."

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