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“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Columbia Heights in Washington, District of Columbia — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
 

Pitts Motor Hotel

Cultural Convergence

 

—Columbia Heights Heritage Trail —

 
Pitts Motor Hotel Marker image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, March 2, 2013
1. Pitts Motor Hotel Marker
Inscription. The Pitts Motor Hotel, formerly located at 1451 Belmont Street, lingers in memory for two reasons. In the 1960s it was a gathering place of Civil Rights movement leaders. Later it became a "welfare hotel." In March 1968 the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., reserved 30 rooms at the Pitts Hotel to house leaders of the Poor Peoples' Campaign he planned to lead in May. He chose the facility because it was both comfortable and black owned.

Despite Dr. King's 1968 assassination, the Poor People's Campaign went ahead. Demonstrators maintained that jobs and income were a civil right owed to the needy citizens by the federal government. In May and June thousands camped in "Resurrection City" on the National Mall where, due to excessive rain, conditions deteriorated quickly. Resentful campers marched on the Pitts where the leaders were housed, demanding (unsuccessfully) that the leaders exchange their comforts for the muddy Mall.

In its heyday the Pitts Motel housed the Red Carpet Lounge. "Everybody would be there" remembered activist Bob Moore. But its popularity masked an unstable financial situation. Owner Cornelius Pitts and other African American entrepreneurs (and would-be homeowners) at the time often were refused bank loans or offered unfavorable terms. In the 1980s, when Reagan administration cuts to
Pitts Motor Hotel Marker image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, March 2, 2013
2. Pitts Motor Hotel Marker
social programs led to widespread homelessness, Pitts took the opportunity to turn around his fortunes, converting his hotel into a shelter. The city rented all 50 rooms, but the prices were so inflated that a congressional investigation resulted. In 2004 a condominium building replaced the hotel.
 
Erected by DC Cultural Tourism. (Marker Number 14.)
 
Location. 38° 55.229′ N, 77° 2.082′ W. Marker is in Columbia Heights, District of Columbia, in Washington. Marker is at the intersection of 15th Street and Belmont Street on 15th Street. Touch for map. The marker is below the balustrade at the end of Belmont street at its intersection with 15th street. 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. Buchanan (within shouting distance of this marker); The Fedora (within shouting distance of this marker); College Hill (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line); An American Meridian (about 500 feet away); Meridian Hill/Malcolm X Park (about 500 feet away); Art for the People (about 600 feet away); Washington Meridian (about 600 feet away but has been reported missing); James Buchanan (about 600 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Columbia Heights.
 
Categories. African AmericansCivil RightsEntertainment
 
Pitts Motor Hotel Marker image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, March 2, 2013
3. Pitts Motor Hotel Marker
in front of the Fedora Condominium which replaced the Pitts Motel at 1451 Belmont Street
The Pitts Hotel in 1977 image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, March 2, 2013
4. The Pitts Hotel in 1977
Cornelius Pitts at the bar in his Red Carpet Lounge image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, March 2, 2013
5. Cornelius Pitts at the bar in his Red Carpet Lounge
The Red Carpet Lounge in its heyday image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, March 2, 2013
6. The Red Carpet Lounge in its heyday
Tents of the Poor People's Campaign image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, March 2, 2013
7. Tents of the Poor People's Campaign
Tents of the Poor People's campaign lined the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool in May and June of 1968.
Resurrection City image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, March 2, 2013
8. Resurrection City
Muddy conditions of the Resurrection City encampment.
Demonstrators image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, March 2, 2013
9. Demonstrators
Poor People's Campaign demonstrators marched on U Street.
Jesse Jackson, 1968 image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, March 2, 2013
10. Jesse Jackson, 1968
Reverend Jesse Jackson (with bullhorn) addressed a crowd at 14th and U Streets during the Poor People's Campaign, June 1968
Map image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, March 2, 2013
11. Map
The Columbia Heights Heritage Trail
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on January 28, 2017. This page originally submitted on March 10, 2013, by Allen C. Browne of Silver Spring, Maryland. This page has been viewed 1,116 times since then and 105 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11. submitted on March 10, 2013, by Allen C. Browne of Silver Spring, Maryland. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.
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