Hub, Home, Heart
— Greater H Street NE Heritage Trail —
Uline Arena was built in 1941 by ice maker Mike Uline to present ice skating, hocky, basketball, and tennis. The Dutch immigrant, originally named Migiel Uihlein, had made a fortune patenting ice production equipment and selling ice from his plant next door. For years Washingtonians rode the streetcar here for sports, worship services, concerts, and cook-offs. Judge Kaye K. Christian recalled that during the 1950s and '60s her mother Alice Stewart Christian won the Afro-American Newspapers
' cooking competition three times at Uline.
Arnold "Red" Auerbach began his professional career coaching the Washington Capitols at Uline Arena. He was hired in 1946, after having coached area high school basketball teams. Auerbach later coached the Boston Celtics to nine NBA titles.
Mike Uline segregated his audiences. African Americans could attend boxing and wrestling, but not supposedly higher-class attractions: ice hockey, the Ice Capades, and basketball. In response E.B. Henderson, a Harvard-trained health and physical education specialist and civil rights leader, protested Uline's policy. As audiences dwindled, Uline buckled to the economic pressure. In 1948 he opened the facility to all.
In 1959 Uline's estate sold the arena. The renamed Washington Coliseum soon presented the Bolshoi Ballet. In 1964, days after appearing on "The Ed Sullivan Show," the Beatles played their first live U.S. concert here. Bob Dylan, the Motown Review, Chuck Brown, and Rare Essence also performed here.
In May 1971 the Coliseum became a holding cell for many of the 12,000 protesters arrested demonstrations against the Vietnam War. Live concerts ended in 1986. For years after, the arena stored trash. As of 2012 it awaited redevelopment.
Trains and streetcars created the Near Northeast neighborhood around H Street. The B&O Railroad's arrival in 1835 made this a center of energetic, working-class life. Workmen living north of the Capitol staffed the Government Printing Office, ran the trains, stocked the warehouses, and built Union Station. When a streetcar arrived linking H Street to downtown, new construction quickly followed.
H Street bustled with shops and offices run by Jewish, Italian, Lebanese, Greek, Irish, and African American families. During the segregation era, which lasted into the 1950s, African Americans came to H Street for its department stores and sit-down restaurants. Most businesses welcomed all customers.
Then came the civil disturbances in the wake of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination in 1968. Decades of commercial decline followed. Just off H Street, though, the strong residential community endured. The 2005 opening of the Atlas Performing Arts Center signaled a revival, building evocatively on H Street's past. Hub, Home, Heart
is a bridge to carry you from that past to the present.
Hub, Home, Heart: Greater H Street NE Heritage Trail
is an Official Washington, DC Walking Trail. The self-guided, 3.2-mile tour of 18 signs offers about two hours of gentle exercise. Free keepsake guidebooks in English or Spanish are available at businesses and institutions along the way. For more on DC neighborhoods, please visit www.CulturalTourismDC.org.