Roanoke, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)
Henry Street Business District
African-American Commercial Center
Henry Street, also known as First Street, N.W., served as the commercial and entertainment center for African-Americans in Roanoke during the first half of the 20th Century. During the days of Jim Crow segregation, Henry Street was where black citizens shopped, dined, socialized, and sought medical, legal and other professional services. Many folks referred to Henry Street as "The Yard" after "Uncle Billy" Frogg Salters nicknamed it that following a friendly card game in 1922.
Henry Street is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is significant for its role in commerce/trade, entertainment/recreation, health/medicine and black ethnic heritage. Over three hundred businesses operated at different times on Henry Street from 1915 until the 1970s.
The vibrant business district and its colorful lifestyle were destroyed by urban renewal during the 1950s and 1960s. Surviving buildings (shown on the map in orange) are the Hotel Dumas (1917), the Strand Theatre (1923), and several small buildings (1940s). Today, the Claude Moore Culinary Institute operates from the theatre
Hotel Dumas and the Strand Theatre
The Hotel Dumas was originally constructed as the Hotel Hampton. It consisted of 26 guest rooms and hosted a cleaning service, snack bar, ice cream parlor, dining room, pool rooms, and a 2nd floor ballroom.
When the Strand Theatre opened, it had a capacity of 703 persons and was equipped with an organ and modern projecting machines. In 1924, Oscar Micheaux, one of the first African-American film producers, established an office and film company in the Strand Theatre. The Virginia Theatre operated there between 1933-34. After closing as a movie theater, the building became an entertainment venue. It operated as The Lincoln Theatre (1935-1945), Club Morocco (1945-61), and the Ebony Club (1962-65). While playing at the theater or other locations in Roanoke, many well-known African-American entertainers stayed at the Dumas, including Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Fats Waller, Ethel Waters, Cab Calloway, Lionel Hampton, Fats Domino, Dizzy Gillespie, Sam Cooke, Nat King Cole, and James Brown.
Of Special Interest
Dr. Lylburn Downing had an office in one of the remaining buildings in the Henry Street Business District at 31 Centre Avenue. He was the first African-American physician accepted as a member of the Roanoke Medical Society and was superintendent of Burrell Memorial Hospital,
Oliver White Hill, a pioneer civil rights attorney, practiced law in the Brooks Building (40 Centre Avenue) from 1934-36 following his graduation from Howard University School of Law. Working with the Virginia NAACP, he was instrumental in ending school segregation in the 1950s through his legal challenges (Davis v. School Board of Prince Edward County, Virginia and Brown v. Board of Education).
Businesses on Henry Street during the 1930s and 1940s
Hotels and Theatres
Dumas Hotel Palace Hotel Strand/Virginia/Lincoln Theater
Civic and Social Organizations
Assoc. Colored Trainmen & Locomotive Firemen Dining Car Employee Club Magic City Protective Club NAACP Peoples Aid Society Veterans of Foreign War
Beauty and Barber Shops
Alice Johnson, Beauty Shop Antiseptic Barber Shop Bertha Jones, Hairdresser Bright Light Barber Dumas Barber Shop Gertie Brown, Beauty Salon Hampton Barber Shop Joseph Reynolds, Barber Lafayette Sanitary Barber Shop Lloyds Beauty Salon M. Howard, Beauty Salon Mattie Cornwall, Hairdresser Millers Antiseptic Barber Shop Modern Manner Beauty Salon Nora Warren, Beauty Shop Pearl Jones, Beauty Shop Virginia Sanitary Barber Shop
Restaurants and Grocery Stores
Aristides Tampasis Restaurant Atlantic Sandwich Shop Bevo Lunch Botrous Wheby, Confectioners Botrous Wheby, Groceries Canada's Ice Cream Charles Mitchell, Baker Charles Tampus, Restaurant Clara Hughes, Restaurant Day and Night Lunch Dell's Restaurant Dumas Coffee Shop Dumas Ice Cream Finney & Gilliams Gillies Diner Gills Gill-Finney Cafι Henry Street Lunch Horse Shoe Cafι Ideal Cafe Jack-Mac-Jill Ice Cream Jamison Stones, Groceries John Cavalaris, Restaurant John Kleitches, Restaurant Kroger L & L Bakery M & M Coffee Shop M & M Tea Room Mitchell Donut Nicholas Lampros, Restaurant & Billiards R Burrell, Restaurant Rob Hartwell, Restaurant Santon Faddoul, Groceries The Spot Restaurant Thomas Whitfield, Restaurant Virginia's Place Ware's Restaurant
Entertainment and Recreation
Cooper Billiards Deluxe Billiards Dumas Recreation First Street Pool Parlor George Marshall, Billiards Jennie Woodliff, Billiards Joseph Gill, Billiards Kings Sports Center Ideal Athletic Club Star Social Club Lynnhaven Pool
Automotive and Appliance
Day & Night Taxi General Radio Service Radio, TV & Electrical Service Robinson Electric Supply Star Taxi Tom's Service Station WAGS Radio
Shoe Shine Parlors
Blue Front Shine Broadway Shoe Shine Economy Shoe Repair Fred Jennings, Shoe Shine H. Lowe, Shoe Shine John Patrick, Shoe Shine John White, Shoe Shine Mitchell Shoe Shine Robinson Shoe Repair Sunlight Shoe Parlor William McNeil, Shoe Shine
Pharmacy and Medical
Brooks Pharmacy Community Drug Store Dr. Thomas Brodnax, Dentist Dr. William Fears, Dentist Dr. George Moore. Physician Dr. Harry Penn, Dentist Dr. Shoun, Chiropodist Dr.s Whehy and Yancey Powell Medicine Progressive Drug Store
Clothing and Cleaners
Crichton Page, Tailor Deluxe Laundry Economy Sewing Edward Oliver, Cleaners Ernest Wade, Tailor Ideal Laundry and Cleaners Kleensall, Inc. Cleaners Magic City Laundry Modern Cleaners & Dyers Prunty & Prunty Cleaners Reed's Cleaners Roanoke Steam Laundry Robert Pindle, Tailor Royal Dry Cleaners Walter Hale, Cleaners & Dyers Webb Cleaners & Dyers
Retail Stores and Newstands
Broadway Smoke Shop Charles Mitchell Cigars Community News Cut Rate Army Navy Idle Rich Smoke Shop Lynnhaven Smoke Shop Polk Printing Establishment Roanoke Photo & Record B. Shapiro, General Merchandise Rufus White, General Merchandise Scott Paint Shop The Phono Album United Art Metal & Novelty
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: African Americans • Civil Rights • Entertainment • Industry & Commerce. In addition, it is included in the Historically Black Colleges and Universities series list.
Location. 37° 16.503′ N, 79° 56.532′ W. Marker is in Roanoke, Virginia. Marker is on Henry Street Northwest north of Loudon Avenue Northwest, on the right when traveling north. Marker is located at the northwest corner of the Claude Moore Education Complex building. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 109 North Henry Street, Roanoke VA 24016, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Hunton Life Saving And First Aid Crew (within shouting distance of this marker); Oscar Micheaux (within shouting distance of this marker); Atlantic, Mississippi and Ohio Railroad Depot (about 500 feet away, measured in a direct line); Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Bridge (about 700 feet away); First Train to Big Lick (about 700 feet away); The Influence of Churches in Gainsboro (about 700 feet away); A Once-Vibrant African American Community (about 800 feet away); Social and Cultural Life (about 800 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Roanoke.
Regarding Henry Street Business District. National Register of Historic Places #04001276 (2004) & Virginia Historic Landmark (2004)
Related markers. Click here for a list of markers that are related to this marker. Henry Street Business District
Also see . . .
1. Claude Moore Education Complex • Building History. The Complex is housed in downtown Roanokes old Ebony Club, which was built circa 1920 as the Strand Theater. It was there, in the early- to mid-1920s, that one of the first African-American filmmakers, Oscar Micheaux, had an office for his production company, the Oscar Micheaux Film Corporation. After producing several films in Roanoke, Micheaux moved to New York to continue producing, and the Strand Theater took the name “The Lincoln Theater.” The theater eventually became the Morocco Club and the Ebony Club, which were African-American dance clubs serving the surrounding Gainsboro neighborhood. The building has also housed a doctors office, record shop, barbershop, and shoe shine business that historically served the surrounding African-American community. (Submitted on May 30, 2019, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida.)
2. Henry Street Historic District. The Henry Street Historic District encompasses four contributing buildings constructed between 1917 and 1951. They were developed as the central business and entertainment district for the African-American neighborhood of Gainsboro in Northwest Roanoke. They are the Hotel Dumas (1917), The Strand Theatre (1923), Dr. Lylburn Downing office (c. 1945), and a commercial building (1951). (Submitted on May 31, 2019, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida.)
Credits. This page was last revised on April 30, 2021. It was originally submitted on May 30, 2019, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida. This page has been viewed 286 times since then and 94 times this year. Photos: 1. submitted on April 30, 2021, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. 2. submitted on May 30, 2019, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida. 3, 4, 5. submitted on May 31, 2019, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida.