While Toasting the Future, Celebrate the Past - NBC4 Washington

While Toasting the Future, Celebrate the Past

U Street hasn't forgotten its roots



    U Street's Historic Past

    New visitors center celebrates U Street history. (Published Friday, Feb. 26, 2010)

    U Street is more than just an address.

    It's bigger than your favorite bar or restaurant.

    The entire neighborhood is steeped in history, and now the events of the past are getting special recognition in the corridor's new-found celebrity.

    Today, the group Cultural Tourism DC, in collaboration with landmark restaurant Ben's Chili Bowl, opened a new visitors center to educate people about U Street.

    "It was Harlem before Harlem," said Cultural Tourism DC's Linda Harper. "It really does represent what Washington and DC is really all about."

    From the 1920's to the late 60's it was known as "Black Broadway."  It was the childhood home of jazz great Duke Ellington. Stars like Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Ella Fitzgerald and Peal Bailey played shows in the area's many venues.

    It suffered after riots in 1968, when Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. Decades of blight followed.

    Now, U Street is enjoying a renaissance. It's known once again for it's nightlife, just like it was decades ago, when it was a major center of African-American culture.

    So, the next time you visit U Street, be sure to raise a glass (or pour out a little liquor), pick up a half-smoke at Ben's, then go next door to take in a little history. You might be surprised at what you learn.