The Vanity Ballroom

The Vanity Ballroom is one of several music halls built in the musical heyday of the roaring 20's and 30's. Designed by Charles Agree and built in 1929, the Vanity is themed in an Aztec motif to differentiate it feom competing ballrooms. The first floor was mainly retail shops, with the ballroom taking up the entire second floor. The Vanity played host to big bands like that of Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, and Tommy Dorsey until music tastes changed and the venue closed in 1958.

When the Vanity reopened in 1964, the crowds came back to enjoy a mild revival in swing, albeit in smaller numbers and only one night a week. In the 70's it started to cater to a more modern scene, with bands like the MC5, Ted Nugent, and The Velvet Underground packing them in. But by that point the east side of the city was sinking fast, leaving long stretches of Jefferson Avenue vacant and overrun with crime. Though several new owners tried to bring the Vanity back to its former glory in the 1980's, it eventually closed for good.

Since then, aside from some raves and dance parties hosted there in the 1990's, the Vanity has been vacant. The old signs were removed, and the architectural details started to vanish as well. Decay and vandalism have done the rest.

There is some hope for the Vanity, though, as the Jefferson-Chalmers area has shown a resurgence of interest. Nearby apartment buildings are being restored, and with them will come new residents. Though it is in rough shape, with gaps in the roof and collapsing walls, the Vanity is not so far gone that it can't be salvaged.

Read more about the history of the Vanity at