chris williams, Eldorado

Chef And James Beard Nominee Partners With Project House To Restore Houston’s Legendary Eldorado Ballroom

Chris Williams, the acclaimed chef at Houston’s famed Southern restaurant Lucille’s, plans to restore Eldorado Ballroom to its former glory. 

Third Ward in Houston is home to the Eldorado Ballroom, a space that provided African American artists a safe haven to showcase their talents in the Jim Crow South. Founded by Clarence and Anna Johnson Duprree, the ballroom is noted for providing a stage for esteemed artists to perform and jumpstarting the careers of newer artists. The ballroom also served as a social hub for people to party without the stresses of segregation. 

According to Essence, renowned artists that have graced the stage at Eldorado Ballroom include Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, and Louis Armstrong. 

In 1970, after the death of her husband, Anna Johnson Dupree decided to sell the building. During this time, the condition of the neighborhood was beginning to wane. To save the building from being demolished, it was purchased by Hubert Finklestein, who donated it to Project Row Houses in 1999. 

According to its site, Project Row Houses is a non-profit organization that serves to enrich communities through servicing the needs of underserved communities. When the organization began to rebuild the community, reestablishing Eldorado was a priority Project Row Houses knew whom to call. 

“This actually started with Project Row Houses when they were gifted the building nine years ago,” Williams told Essence. “They wanted to start a project to bring the Eldorado back to its former glory. Anita Smith and Hasty Johnson from Hines Development reached out to see if I had any ideas, and, for me, being a part of the project was a no-brainer.”

The new Eldorado will feature a cafe and art gallery. The cafe will cater to a broad audience and provide opportunities for chefs to gain exposure. The gallery will do more than provide artists a chance to sell their work.

“This is not just teaching kids to finger paint. We want them to know the business side of art,” Williams said.

Williams’ goal is to rekindle the culture and beauty of Eldorado from the past. The ballroom will feature stage performances from artists, book signings, as well as a partnership with KTSU Radio.