U Street Corridor 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 —
Black businesses sprung up everywhere on U Street in the early 1900s. As racial segregation increased, African Americans in Washington began a tradition of protest. They also responded by creating institutions of there own. In the 25 years from 1895 to 1920, the number of Black-owned businesses in this area skyrocketed from about 15 to more than 300. They clustered around U Street.
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
These and other Black-owned businesses created a world unto itself. Those who remember say, "We had everything we needed right here."
Erected by Cultural Tourism DC. (Marker Number 3.)
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: African Americans • Arts, Letters, Music • Entertainment • Industry & Commerce. In addition, it is included in the Greater U Street Heritage Trail series list. A significant historical year for this entry is 1895.
Location. 38° 55.026′ N, 77° 1.615′ W. Marker is in U Street Corridor in Washington, District of Columbia. Marker is at the intersection of U Street Northwest and 11th Street Northwest, on the right on U Street Northwest. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 2001 11th 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. 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 MemorialAfrican American Civil War Memorial (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); The True Reformer Building (about 400 feet away); Evans-Tibbs House (about 400 feet away); Ben's Chili Bowl / Minnehaha Theater (about 500 feet away); Lincoln Theatre and Lincoln Colonnade (about 600 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in U Street Corridor.
More about this marker.
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.
Additional keywords. Jazz
Credits. This page was last revised on May 16, 2021. It was originally submitted on May 29, 2008, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. This page has been viewed 2,210 times since then and 28 times this year. Last updated on May 16, 2021, by Bradley Owen of Morgantown, West Virginia. Photos: 1, 2, 3. submitted on May 15, 2021, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. 4. submitted on March 2, 2011, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. 5. submitted on May 29, 2008, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. • Devry Becker Jones was the editor who published this page.