U Street Corridor in Washington, District of Columbia — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
You Had to Wear a Tie
City within a City
— Greater U Street Heritage Trail —
You are standing on Washington’s historic Black Broadway–the heart of African American life in Washington, D.C. from about 1900 to the 1950s. Duke Ellington, its most famous native son, grew up, was inspired, trained, and played his first music here. He is but one example of the leaders in law, medicine, the military, science and the arts who were shaped by a community that valued education and supported achievement against great odds in a segregated society. Nearby Howard University was its guiding star.
The Lincoln Theater at mid-block across U Street, now restored to its 1922 grandeur, was one of three first run movie theaters clustered on U Street. The Lincoln Colonnade behind the theater, since demolished, was a popular setting for balls, parties and performances. All the great entertainers played clubs on or near this boulevard–Cab Calloway, Pearl Bailey, Sarah Vaughn, Louis Armstrong, Billy Eckstine, and Jelly Roll Morton, to name a few.
Black-owned businesses, the offices of Black lawyers, doctors and dentists; and the headquarters of Black social institutions clustered along U Street. Many
All night and on weekends, U Street was a parade ground–a place to meet friends and share what many describe as a close, small-time atmosphere. And at its core was an elegance epitomized by Duke Ellington himself. The old-timers say that U Street was so grand that to come here you had to wear a tie.
Erected by Cultural Tourism DC. (Marker Number 1.)
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: African Americans • Arts, Letters, Music • Entertainment • Roads & Vehicles. In addition, it is included in the Greater U Street Heritage Trail, and the Historically Black Colleges and Universities 🎓 series lists.
Location. 38° 55.014′ N, 77° 1.764′ W. Marker is in U Street Corridor in Washington, District of Columbia. Marker is at the intersection of U Street Northwest and 13th Street Northwest, on the right when traveling east on U Street Northwest. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 1250 U Street Northwest, Washington DC 20009, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Marlon Francisco Morales (a few steps from this marker); Lincoln Theatre and Lincoln Colonnade (within shouting distance Ben's Chili Bowl / Minnehaha Theater (within shouting distance of this marker); The True Reformer Building (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); "Old Man River" (about 500 feet away); "No More Auction Block For Me" (about 500 feet away); "Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child" (about 500 feet away); Dedicated in Honor of Claven Wood (about 500 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in U Street Corridor.
More about this marker.
Ushers welcome patrons, above, to the Lincoln Theater about 1940. Duke Ellington, left, frequently returned home from New York to play at the Howard Theater at 7th and T.
The Republic Theater in the 1300 block of U Street, demolished in the 1980s, was one of three first run movie houses on the street Noted photographer Robert H. McNeill captured this lively night-time scene about 1940.
Louis Armstrong playing the Lincoln Colonnade, a popular dance hall that once operated behind the Lincoln Theater.
Capital Classic parade headed for U Street in the 1950s.
Related markers. Click here for a list of markers that are related to this marker. A walking tour of the U Street neighborhood (note, only 6 of 14 markers are currently entered in the database).
Credits. This page was last revised on June 3, 2020. It was originally submitted on December 30, 2008, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. This page has been viewed 1,906 times since then. Last updated on March 7, 2019, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. Photos: 1, 2. submitted on December 30, 2008, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. 3, 4, 5. submitted on July 24, 2016, by J. Makali Bruton of Querétaro, Mexico. 6. submitted on March 18, 2009, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13. submitted on January 21, 2015, by Allen C. Browne of Silver Spring, Maryland. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.