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

Culture and Commerce

Hub, Home, Heart

 

—Greater H Street NE Heritage Trail —

 
Culture and Commerce Marker image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, September 29, 2012
1. Culture and Commerce Marker
Inscription. When the Atlas Performing Arts Center opened in 2005, it gave hope to an area still recovering from the destruction following the assassination of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in 1968. But when K-B's Atlas movie house opened here in 1938 as one of DC's first air-conditioned theaters, this was a bustling commercial strip.

The Atlas originally admitted whites only. African American movie-goers traveled elsewhere until 1943, when the Plymouth Theater opened in an old auto showroom at 1365 H Street. Then in 1953 the Supreme Court declared segregation in DC's public accommodations illegal.

But H Street's shops, run by families of many nationalities, had always served all: their working-class neighbors as well as commuters. Most owners, like Meyer Greenbaum of Greenbaum's Bakery, 1361 H Street, lived above or behind the stores and worked long hours. Carroll Barber Shop opened next to Greenbaum's in 1931 as one of H Street's first African American businesses. A few years later Meyer "Mike" Kanter opened I.C. Furniture, selling used and inexpensive goods. (Kanter's son Ted switched to high-end furniture, opening Theodore's in upper Georgetown.)

Beginning in 1951 Jack Napier ran Ultra-Modern Barbership at 1338 for nearly 50 years. Napier is remembered for hiring and training local young men. In the mid-1970s,
Burned out Atlas Theater image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, September 29, 2012
2. Burned out Atlas Theater
The burned-out Atlas Theater, left, and the 1300 block of H awaited redevelopment in 1988.
Marcus Griffith made and sold his patented hair care products at Hairlox, 1315 H Street.

Despite entrepreneurs' post-riots efforts, progress was slow. Then in 2002, in cooperation with H Street Community Development Corporation and the Linden Neighborhood Association, the nonprofit Atlas Performing Arts Center began its large-scale renovations and H Street began its latest revival.

Discover More...
Between 1981 and 2009, the northeast corner of 13th and H Streets hosted the Robert L. Christian Library. Thanks to lobbying by community members the library first opened in 1972 at 1007 H and honored the former teatcher who founded the Northeast Neighborhood House. In addition to promoting literacy and academic achievement, Northeast Neighborhood House offered job training for young people, recreation, tutoring, mentorship, and day care for working parents.

(Back):
Trains and streetcars created the Near Northeast neighborhood around H Street. The B&O Railroad's arrival in 1835 made this a center of energetic, working-class life. Workmen living north of the Capitol staffed the Government Printing Office, ran the trains, stocked the warehouses, and built Union Station. When a streetcar arrived linking H Street to downtown, new construction quickly followed.

H Street bustled with shops and offices run by Jewish, Italian, Lebanese, Greek,
Restaurants and Damage image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, September 29, 2012
3. Restaurants and Damage
Top: Greek immigrant Anest George Koutras's Ohio Restaurant served soul food at 15th and H Sts., in the 1940s.

Bottom: Graffiti covers the Atlas box offices, 2003.
Irish, and African American families. During the segregation era, which lasted into the 1950s, African Americans came to H Street for its department stores and sit-down restaurants. Most businesses welcomed all customers.

Then came the civil disturbances in the wake of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination in 1968. Decades of commercial decline followed. Just off H Street, though, the strong residential community endured. The 2005 opening of the Atlas Performing Arts Center signaled a revival, building evocatively on H Street's past. Hub, Home, Heart is a bridge to carry you from that past to the present.

Hub, Home, Heart: Greater H Street NE Heritage Trail is an Official Washington, DC Walking Trail. The self-guided, 3.2-mile tour of 18 signs offers about two hours of gentle exercise. Free keepsake guidebooks in English or Spanish are available at businesses and institutions along the way. For more on DC neighborhoods, please visit www.CulturalTourismDC.org.
 
Erected 2012 by Cultural Tourism DC. (Marker Number 10.)
 
Location. 38° 54.019′ N, 76° 59.276′ W. Marker is in Near Northeast, District of Columbia, in Washington. Marker is at the intersection of H Street, NE and 13th Street, NE, on the right
Right Side Photos image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, September 29, 2012
4. Right Side Photos
Top: In 2005 workers pause while pouring concrete for the Lang Theater one of four in the new performing arts center.

Center left: Employees Richard Davis and Bill King pose in front of Mike Kanter's I.C. Furniture, 1353 H St.

Lower Right: Baker's daughter Sally Greenbaum in front of the Plymouth dealership (later Plymouth Theater, and then, starting in 2002, H Street Playhouse).

Lower Left: Marcus Griffith in his plant at 1313 H St. where Hairlox beauty products were made in 1987.
when traveling west on H Street, NE. Click for map. Marker is in this post office area: Washington DC 20002, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Enterprising Families (within shouting distance of this marker); Mediterranean Imports (about 600 feet away, measured in a direct line); The Changing Faces of H Street (approx. 0.2 miles away); The Hub (approx. 0.2 miles away); Brickyards to Buildings (approx. 0.3 miles away); At the Crossroads (approx. 0.4 miles away); The Fires of 1968 (approx. 0.4 miles away); Education for All (approx. half a mile away). Click for a list of all markers in Near Northeast.
 
Related markers. Click here for a list of markers that are related to this marker. Greater H Street NE Heritage Trail
 
Categories. Industry & CommerceNotable Places
 
Discover More sidebar image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, September 29, 2012
5. Discover More sidebar
Back of Marker image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, September 29, 2012
6. Back of Marker
Atlas Theater during World War II image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, September 29, 2012
7. Atlas Theater during World War II
Young Atlas Theater movie fans rally to support the armed forces in World War II.
Map of the H Street Heritage Trail image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, September 29, 2012
8. Map of the H Street Heritage Trail
Culture and Commerce Marker image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, September 29, 2012
9. Culture and Commerce Marker
Former site of the Robert L. Christian Library image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, September 29, 2012
10. Former site of the Robert L. Christian Library
Atlas Performing Arts Center image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, September 29, 2012
11. Atlas Performing Arts Center
H Street Today image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, September 29, 2012
12. H Street Today
Notice the rebuilt Atlas Theater.
 
 
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia. This page has been viewed 240 times since then and 13 times this year. Last updated on , by A. Taylor of Laurel, Maryland. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12. submitted on , by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016.
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