U Street Corridor in Washington, District of Columbia — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
The True Reformer Building
City Within a City
—Greater U Street Heritage Trail —
The Order of True Reformers based in Richmond, Virginia, provided insurance and other benefits for its members. The organization built this building at a cost of $100,000, to symbolize the achievements of African Americans in a prominent place in the nation's capital. It was designed by John A. Lankford, the city's first registered African American architect, who went on to national prominence as the architect for African Methodist Episcopal churches across the country. In 1906, Lankford said, "being in Washington, it stands out to the civilized world as an example of what
Duke Ellington played one of his first paid performances with his own band here. Its lofty, second floor auditorium provided the setting for debutante balls, sorority and fraternity dances, and from 1938, for basketball and other activities of the Police Boys Club No. 2. The First Separate Battalion, an African American reserve unit that served with distinction in World War I, drilled on the ground floor.
Today it is home to the Public Welfare Foundation, which shares the original mission of the True Reformers in dedicating itself to the well-being of people and communities in need.
John Anderson Lankford, Washington's first registered African American architect, designed the True Reformer Building in 1902.
Duke Ellington, seen here with his band about 1930 at Louis Thomas's cabaret at 9th and R, played his first paid performance at the True Reformer Building.
Boys Club members exercise in the second floor auditorium.
Erected by Cultural Tourism DC. (Marker Number 2.)
Marker series. This marker is included in the Greater U Street Heritage Trail marker series.
Location. 38° 55.026′ N, 77° Touch for map. Marker is on the north side of U Street, directly across from the True Reformer Building. Marker is at or near this postal address: 1203 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. Ben's Chili Bowl / Minnehaha Theater (within shouting distance of this marker); Lincoln Theatre and Lincoln Colonnade (within shouting distance of this marker); Industrial Bank of Washington (within shouting distance of this marker); Marlon Francisco Morales (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); You Had to Wear a Tie (about 300 feet away); "We had everything we needed right here." (about 400 feet away); Louise Burrell Miller Residence (about 600 feet away); Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of the District of Columbia (about 600 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in U Street Corridor.
Also see . . . Greater U Street Heritage Trail markers that have been entered in the Historical Marker database. (Submitted on March 25, 2009.)
Categories. • African Americans • Charity & Public Work • Entertainment • Fraternal or Sororal Organizations •
Credits. This page was last revised on March 16, 2019. This page originally submitted on May 29, 2008, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. This page has been viewed 2,945 times since then and 20 times this year. Last updated on March 7, 2019, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. Photos: 1, 2, 3. submitted on May 29, 2008, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. 4. submitted on July 24, 2016, by J. Makali Bruton of Querétaro, Mexico. 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. submitted on January 23, 2015, by Allen C. Browne of Silver Spring, Maryland. 11, 12. submitted on May 29, 2008, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. 13, 14. submitted on January 23, 2015, by Allen C. Browne of Silver Spring, Maryland. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.