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“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Washington in Washington, District of Columbia — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
 

The True Reformer Building

City Within a City

 

—Greater U Street Heritage Trail —

 
The True Reformer Building Marker image. Click for full size.
By Richard E. Miller, April 26, 2008
1. The True Reformer Building Marker
Inscription. The daily lives of residents of this historic African American community were woven together through hundreds of social and civic organizations--fraternal organizations, clubs, school alumni associations, civic associations and the like. The grand 5-story, Italianate building at the southwest corner of 12th and U Streets, known as the True Reformers Hall and later the Pythian Temple, was the setting for many of their activities. Completed in 1903, it was among the grandest buildings in the nation to have been designed, built and financed by African Americans.

The Order of True Reformers based in Richmond, Virginia, provided insurance and other benefits for its members. The organization built this building at a cost of $100,000, to symbolize the achievements of African Americans in a prominent place in the nation's capital. It was designed by John A. Lankford, the city's first registered African American architect, who went on to national prominence as the architect for African Methodist Episcopal churches across the country. In 1906, Lankford said, "being in Washington, it stands out to the civilized world as an example of what the Negro can do and has done with his brain, skill, and money."

Duke Ellington played one of his first paid performances with his own band here. Its lofty, second floor auditorium provided
The True Reformer Building - 12th and U Steets, NW image. Click for full size.
By Richard E. Miller, April 26, 2008
2. The True Reformer Building - 12th and U Steets, NW
the setting for debutante balls, sorority and fraternity dances, and from 1938, for basketball and other activities of the Police Boys Club No. 2. The First Separate Battalion, an African American reserve unit that served with distinction in World War I, drilled on the ground floor.

Today it is home to the Public Welfare Foundation, which shares the original mission of the True Reformers in dedicating itself to the well-being of people and communities in need.

[photo captions:]

John Anderson Lankford, Washington's first registered African American architect, designed the True Reformer Building in 1902.

Duke Ellington, seen here with his band about 1930 at Louis Thomas's cabaret at 9th and R, played his first paid performance at the True Reformer Building.

Boys Club members exercise in the second floor auditorium.
 
Erected by Cultural Tourism DC. (Marker Number 2 of 14.)
 
Location. 38° 55.026′ N, 77° 1.701′ W. Marker is in Washington, District of Columbia, in Washington. Marker is at the intersection of U Street, NW and 12th Street, NW, on the right when traveling west on U Street, NW. Click for map. Marker is on the north side of U Street, directly across from the True Reformer
True Reformer Building, west side with Duke Ellington Mural image. Click for full size.
By Richard E. Miller, April 26, 2008
3. True Reformer Building, west side with Duke Ellington Mural
Building. Marker is in this post office area: Washington DC 20009, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Ben's Chili Bowl / Minnehaha Theater (within shouting distance of this marker); Lincoln Theatre and Lincoln Colonnade (within shouting distance of this marker); Industrial Bank of Washington (within shouting distance of this marker); Marlon Francisco Morales (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); You Had to Wear a Tie (about 300 feet away); We had everything we needed right here (about 400 feet away); Louise Burrell Miller Residence (about 600 feet away); Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of the District of Columbia (about 600 feet away).
 
Also see . . .  Greater U Street Heritage Trail markers that have been entered in the Historical Marker database. (Submitted on March 25, 2009.)
 
Categories. African AmericansCharity & Public WorkEntertainmentFraternal or Sororal Organizations
 
The True Reformer Building Marker image. Click for full size.
By J. Makali Bruton, July 24, 2016
4. The True Reformer Building Marker
The marker is seen here at the northwest corner of U and 12th Streets.
The New Temple image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, December 29, 2014
5. The New Temple
John Anderson Lankford, Washington's first registered African American architect, designed the True Reformer Building in 1902.
Close-up of photo on marker
John Anderson Lankford image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, December 29, 2014
6. John Anderson Lankford
Close-up of photo on marker
Laugh It Off image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, December 29, 2014
7. Laugh It Off
at the Police Boy's Club No. 2
12th and You Streets, N.W.
Close-up of photo on marker
Duke Ellington image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, December 29, 2014
8. Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington, seen here with his band about 1920 at Louis Thompson's cabaret at 9th and R, played his first paid performance at the True Reformer Building.
Close-up of photo on marker
The Dozen image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, December 29, 2014
9. The Dozen
A social group called The Dozen chose the True Refomer Building as the site for this formal dinner about 1917.Adelaide J. Robinson
Close-up of photo on reverse of marker
Boys Club image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, December 29, 2014
10. Boys Club
Boys Club members exercise in the second floor auditorium.
Close-up of photo on marker
"Duke Ellington Mural - Artist: G. Byron Peck..." image. Click for full size.
By Richard E. Miller, April 26, 2008
11. "Duke Ellington Mural - Artist: G. Byron Peck..."
Plaque at building's entrance.
Duke Ellington Mural - "Donated by... With Special Thanks and Support from..." image. Click for full size.
By Richard E. Miller, April 26, 2008
12. Duke Ellington Mural - "Donated by... With Special Thanks and Support from..."
Plaques at building's entrance.
Duke Ellington Mural image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, September 3, 2011
13. Duke Ellington Mural
In 1997, G. Byron Peck created this mural on the wall of Mood Indigo, an antique and vintage clothing shop, now Ulah Bistro, at 1214 U Street. In 2004 the mural was moved onto the True Reformer Building.
Drink Coca Cola<br>Gray and Gray Druggists image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, December 29, 2014
14. Drink Coca Cola
Gray and Gray Druggists
In May of 2012 the iconic mural was removed for restoration, revealing the original Coca Cola advertisement. It was expected to be replaced within a year. As 2015 begins, the mural is still missing.
 
 
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. This page has been viewed 2,806 times since then and 7 times this year. Last updated on , by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on , by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland.   4. submitted on , by J. Makali Bruton of Querétaro, Mexico.   5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. submitted on , by Allen C. Browne of Silver Spring, Maryland.   11, 12. submitted on , by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland.   13, 14. submitted on , by Allen C. Browne of Silver Spring, Maryland. • Craig Swain was the editor who published this page. This page was last revised on July 24, 2016.
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