Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Don't U Forget As U Walk On By!

A glimpse into past and present day U Street

By Maria Galiano

If you are a resident of the nation's capital, then you probably already love the one and only, famous U Street. From its iconic Ben's Chili Bowl diner to its venerable Victorian era architecture, U Street screams D.C. culture!

A row of historic homes just off the U Street Corridor.
Although modern U Street may be known for its exquisite style, U Street's memory bank is rich with history that is worth preserving and celebrating! The row houses tell the story of the post-civil war era when housing was in great demand in the city. At first glance, these houses might look identical to each other, but if you take the time to appreciate each block, you'll realize that each house has its own unique features that contribute to this city's collective mosaic! And speaking of the community, it is impossible to overestimate the importance of Civil Rights Era in U Street's history. Though the neighborhood was long a bastion of African American business, and self determination, following the 1968 assassination of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., riots exploded around the U Street corridor. Businesses were hurt and the community was affected, but there is no doubt that the U Street managed to get back on its feet!

And who can forget the great culture of U Street?! The performing arts are an integral part of this community's culture. The Howard Theatre built its historical reputation in the early part of the twentieth century. At a time when African Americans were excluded from white cultural opportunities in other parts of the city, this location allowed many African Americans to come and establish a place that reflected a sense of community. Many famous artists such as James Brown and The Temptations showcased their talents on this theater's stage! Special audience members, such as President Franklin D. Roosevelt, attended performances at Howard Theatre Oral testimonies from community members who remember growing up and having Howard Theater become a special and central place in their everyday lives can be found in DCDM's item Memories of the Howard Theatre. The Lincoln Theatre is also remembered as a welcoming place for its community members. In fact, Washington's D.C.'s  very own Duke Ellington began his career as an rising star at the Lincoln Theatre. Located next to Ben's Chili Bowl, the Lincoln Theatre echoes a time when french horns and trumpets played to the rhythm of Jazz!

Now we fast forward to present day U Street... And CVS.Yes, those red-logo, brown buildings that have been built in what seems to be every corner of this town make up a major part D.C.'s businesses. But U Street is also home to other business sites, such as Busboys and Poets, Lee's Flower and Card Shop, and Sorg Architects. Busboys and Poets provides a pleasant and amicable atmosphere to its customers! After enjoying a delicious meal, customers are able enjoy the artwork display at the restaurant. It is a delicious way to satisfy a lunch craving and a fun way to feed the creative mind! If you ever forget mom's birthday or the fact that it is Valentine's Day, U Street's Lee's Flower and Card Shop can come in handy with its same day delivery service!With its heartwarming cards and great customer service, it is no surprise that Lee's Flower and Card Shop was and still is a family operating business! And a look into Anacostia High School, reveals the inspired restoration that Sorg Architects has completed over the last few years. As mentioned in Celebrating U Street: A Washington DC Great Street, (footage from the program can be found in the DCDM), these businesses contribute to the flavor and energy of U Street!

 So as you walk on by U Street, don't  U forget about its historical past, and don't forget to appreciate its alluring present!