Royal Theater Monument at West Lafayette and Pennsylvania Avenue

I left my car on campus yesterday so I could sit in J.’s car as he drove us all the way to Gaithersburg for a most excellent, if overwrought and heavy handed, movie at the weird mall with the restaurant that served me fries with my falafal. I can leave my car wherever, because the next day, I can always ride my bike wherever, stick my bike on the car, and drive us all home. Today I was determined not to let Arbutus mess with my head, so I stared at the googleymap before I left, only to take a wrong turn on West Lafayette, but that was my only one, and I got to school 10 minutes faster than Tuesday! It’s the little things. On my way I passed this monument to the old Royal Theater as I crossed Pennsylvania Avenue. The Royal Theater was the Apollo Theater of Baltimore, the first place to show a movie in the city, a mecca for Black musical artists, a jewel from the 1920s to the 1960s. And then Baltimore fell victim to white flight and the loss of capital that followed the move to the suburbs. The street and surrounding neighborhoods took major damage in the riots of 1968. The theater was demolished in 1971, and now there’s a sign as part of a historical walking tour and this arch that serves as a community announcement board–I’m sorry I missed the classic Cadillac show! These historical walking tours are part of redevelopment projects, and I enjoy them, but there’s also something sad about a place that’s still alive, where people still live and work and plan and struggle, turning into history. I also wonder when I’ll feel confident enough on my route to pay closer attention.

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