TWO months ago, an electrical fire badly damaged the...

Salmagundi

August 10, 1993

TWO months ago, an electrical fire badly damaged the Charles Street mansion that housed the Eubie Blake National Museum and Cultural Center.

That may have been a blessing in disguise. The Eubie Blake center was forced to move and has become the first of the cultural institutions to occupy the Brokerage, which the city hopes to develop into a major crowd attraction.

At the present, the Brokerage, at 34 Market Place, is a ghost of an arcade. Renovated at a great cost during the go-go days of 1980s real estate speculation, it was supposed to house trendy boutiques, saloons and restaurants. Instead it went bust. Today, it is mostly empty, except for the Eubie Blake center and a couple of commercial users that believe in miracles.

The potential of the complex is evident. The old brick buildings were nicely restored and reconstructed, somewhat resembling Underground Atlanta.

The Eubie Blake center occupies a temporary space on the ground floor. For the next few days, it is displaying a free exhibit that ought not to be missed.

"Field to Factory: Afro-American Migration, 1915-1940" is a traveling exhibit organized by the National Museum of American History and the Smithsonian Institution. In photographs and artifacts it documents the great migration of blacks to the North, the conditions that led to it, the hopes and expectations.

Langston Hughes wrote:

I pick up my life

And take it away

On a one-way ticket --

Gone up North,

Gone out West,

Gone!

The "Field to Factory" exhibit will be open until Aug. 15. Call 396-8128 for hours.

The city is still mulling over final plans for the Brokerage. Once completed, the Eubie Blake center's exhibit honoring the

Baltimore-born ragtime pianist will be housed there.

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