Shaw in Washington, District of Columbia — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
We had everything we needed right here
City Within a City
—Greater U Street Heritage Trail —
John Whitelaw Lewis led the way in a true rags to riches story. Arriving in Washington with few resources in 1896, he took a job as a brick carrier. He soon organized his co-workers into a building and loan association, and in 1913 turned it into the Industrial Savings Bank, located on its original site directly across 11th Street. Reorganized by Jesse Mitchell in the 1930s, it continues in his family today as one of the oldest Black financial institutions in the nation.
The bank building and the building on this corner were both financed by John Whitelaw Lewis and designed by Black architect Isaiah T. Hatton in 1919 and 1922, respectively. The Bohemian Cavern of today is a revival of a long tradition on this spot. The Crystal Caverns began here in 1926, giving way to the Club Caverns, and then the Bohemian Caverns in the 1960s--a setting for the music of John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley, Miles Davis, and Ramsey Lewis, among many others.
These and other Black-owned businesses created a world unto itself. Those who remember say, "We had everything we needed right here."
John Whitelaw Lewis, above left, financed the Industrial Savings Bank, seen above in the 1940s.
One of many pool halls along U Street, about 1940.
Party at the Club [Crystal] Caverns in the early 1940s. The current Bohemian Cavern has reproduced the original cave-like setting.
The Madame C.J. Walker College of Beauty Culture once operated at 1306 U Street.
Erected by Cultural Tourism DC. (Marker Number 3 of 14.)
Location. 38° 55.026′ N, 77° 1.615′ W. Marker is in Shaw, District of Columbia, in Washington. Marker is at the intersection of U Street, NW and 11th Street, NW, on the right on U Street, NW. Touch for map. 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. Industrial Bank of Washington (within shouting distance of this marker); Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of the District of Columbia (within shouting distance of this marker); African American Civil War Memorial Civil War Camp to Victorian Neighborhood (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); a different marker also named African American Civil War Memorial (about 300 feet away); The True Reformer Building (about 400 feet away); Sailors / With Freedom Came the Greater YOU (about 500 feet away); Pioneers / With Freedom Came Their Community (about 500 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Shaw.
Also see . . . Greater U Street Heritage Trail markers that have been entered in the Historical Marker database. (Submitted on March 25, 2009.)
Additional keywords. Jazz
Categories. • African Americans • Arts, Letters, Music • Entertainment • Industry & Commerce •
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on May 29, 2008, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. This page has been viewed 2,093 times since then and 19 times this year. Last updated on April 16, 2011, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. Photos: 1. submitted on May 29, 2008, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. 2. submitted on March 2, 2011, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. 3, 4. submitted on May 29, 2008, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.