Preserving the Blue Bird is akin to preserving the musical heritage of Detroit. If it wasn’t for Detroit— bebop, which predated Jazz— would have died. The Blue Bird Inn is of great historical significance. It was important in the development of black music. The Bird foreshadowed the explosion of music such as the Funk Brothers.
The Blue Bird was not only a popular neighborhood meeting place, but a focal point of modern jazz. It was the center of that scene.The cafe hosted performances by Miles Davis, Cannonball Adderley, John Coltrane + Charlie Parker. The Bluebird was commemorated in song: Jazz trumpeter Thad Jones wrote “A Salute to the Bluebird” and jazz pianist Tommy Flanagan wrote Beyond the Bluebird.
People could not move freely beyond Tireman. The black demographic could not reside North of the demarcation line (designated as Tireman) due to restrictive housing covenants and intimidation tactics that forbid them to do so. There were laws in place but new ‘rules,’ both written and unspoken sprouted up to take their place.
If you were black and traveled beyond the boundary of Tireman, you’d hit Dearborn, which was notorious in its reputation among the black population as a racist area and renown “Sundown Town.” Population records of the time illustrate there are no black people living west of Woodward. This was because black residents, through restrictive racial regulations— were forced to live in certain areas; basically, you couldn’t live east of Woodward.
The Detroit Sound Conservancy finalized the purchase of 5021 Tireman in Detroit in 2019. It had been shuttered since 2003. It was a long process, aided with the help of many along the way: Rachel Riley, Director of Arts & Culture for the City of Detroit, City Councilwoman Raquel Castaneda-Lopez, urban planner Lauren Hood, Saundra Little of Quinn Evans + Preservation Detroit all served as advisors for this project. MHPN wrote letters to help them obtain the property, and the Cardinal Foundation— a youth outreach program founded by Ron Cannon, helped with volunteer efforts.