You Had to Wear a Tie

You Had to Wear a Tie (HMB88)

Location: Washington, DC 20009
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Country: United States of America
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N 38° 55.014', W 77° 1.764'

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City within a City

— Greater U Street Heritage Trail —

You are standing on Washington's historic Black Broadway-the heart of African American life in Washington, D.C. from about 1900 to the 1950s. Duke Ellington, its most famous native son, grew up, was inspired, trained, and played his first music here. He is but one example of the leaders in law, medicine, the military, science and the arts who were shaped by a community that valued education and supported achievement against great odds in a segregated society. Nearby Howard University was its guiding star.

The Lincoln Theater at mid-block across U Street, now restored to its 1922 grandeur, was one of three first run movie theaters clustered on U Street. The Lincoln Colonnade behind the theater, since demolished, was a popular setting for balls, parties and performances. All the great entertainers played clubs on or near this boulevard-Cab Calloway, Pearl Bailey, Sarah Vaughn, Louis Armstrong, Billy Eckstine, and Jelly Roll Morton, to name a few.

Black-owned businesses, the offices of Black lawyers, doctors and dentists; and the headquarters of Black social institutions clustered along U Street. Many of them occupied buildings that were financed, designed and built by and for African Americans-unusual at the time.

All night and on weekends, U Street was a parade ground-a place to meet friends and share what many describe as a close, small-time atmosphere. And at its core was an elegance epitomized by Duke Ellington himself. The old-timers say that U Street was so grand that to come here you had to wear a tie.

[Photo captions:]

Ushers welcome patrons, above, to the Lincoln Theater about 1940. Duke Ellington, left, frequently returned home from New York to play at the Howard Theater at 7th and T.

The Republic Theater in the 1300 block of U Street, demolished in the 1980s, was one of three first run movie houses on the street Noted photographer Robert H. McNeill captured this lively night-time scene about 1940.

Louis Armstrong playing the Lincoln Colonnade, a popular dance hall that once operated behind the Lincoln Theater.

Capital Classic parade headed for U Street in the 1950s.
HM NumberHMB88
Marker Number1 of 14
Placed ByCultural Tourism DC
Marker ConditionNo reports yet
Date Added Sunday, August 31st, 2014 at 7:44pm PDT -07:00
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Locationbig map
UTM (WGS84 Datum)18S E 324057 N 4309512
Decimal Degrees38.91690000, -77.02940000
Degrees and Decimal MinutesN 38° 55.014', W 77° 1.764'
Degrees, Minutes and Seconds38° 55' 0.84" N, 77° 1' 45.84" W
Driving DirectionsGoogle Maps
Area Code(s)202
Closest Postal AddressAt or near 1250 U St NW, Washington DC 20009, US
Alternative Maps Google Maps, MapQuest, Bing Maps, Yahoo Maps, MSR Maps, OpenCycleMap, MyTopo Maps, OpenStreetMap

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