The tall, striking building in Shreveport Common looks like a typical vacant structure, but look more closely and you will see life returning.

The Calanthean Temple was at its peak in the early 1900s, a home to African American professional offices; dentists, doctors, attorneys. The 8 to 5 gave way to a robust nighttime musical venue on the vaunted rooftop which hosted all the famous African American musicians of the day- Louis Armstrong, Dizzie Gillespie, Count Basie, Jelly Roll Morton…the list goes on and on. 

Though the jazz melodies and progressive energy momentarily ceased with the Calanthean Temple’s closing, music is once again being heard there.

 

The First of Its Kind

The Court of Calanthe, an African-American women’s organization, built the Calanthean Temple in 1923. It stood as the largest building in the United States brought into existence by African-American creativity and savvy.  

In addition to the storied musicians, dancers and Mardi Gras ball attendees also flocked to the Calanthean Temple’s rooftop for celebrations. The landmark remains in one of Shreveport’s designated historic areas. Mike Rosebery photographed the Calanthean Temple after years of decay. A relatively-new owner is working to  rehab the building and make it both useful and beautiful once again. Tons of trash has been removed from the interior of the building, broken windows were removed, new windows will soon be installed, the amazing rooftop deck has been re-roofed, making the building leak-free again for the first time in dozens of years. 

Calanthean Temple rooftop garden dance advertisement

The Calanthean Temple featured musicians and dances on its rooftop garden. (Credit: Chris Brown)

Inspiring a Musical Comeback

New Orleans Airlift, an organization in New Orleans that promotes collaboration between communities and artists, created a musical village in an adjacent lot operating in the shadow of the Calanthean Temple. Artists came together to construct interactive musical architecture whose elements of wood, metal and other material allow artists to play tunes. The site was dubbed the Calanthean Canyon in honor of its historical neighbor.

Community artists perform at the Calanthean Canyon in events held as part of the Shreveport Regional Arts Council’s UNSCENE! initiative. The initiative has sparked multiple artistic endeavors that attract diverse audiences in the region to experience the culture of the area.

Learn More of Shreveport’s Rich Heritage at History on Tap

Want to learn how Shreveport’s historic buildings are reviving downtown’s unique culture? Check out History on Tap on Thursday, March 24, at 5:00 to 9:00 p.m. in downtown Shreveport.