This weekend, the H Street Festival returns to the H Street NE corridor.
The festival will also serve as the unveiling for the new H Street Heritage Trail, which will dot the landscape with markers for such historically significant events as the Beatles’ first U.S. show, which took place in 1964 at the Washington Coliseum, not far from Union Station.
Before Saturday’s festivities, we thought we’d take our own look back at some the landmark moments in the neighborhood, as seen in Washington Post photography.
After the 1968 assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., neighborhoods across Washington erupted in riots. Calvarymen, pictured at right, swept H Street near 10th and 11th streets NE, but it wasn’t until the mid-2000s that revitalization efforts took hold in the neighborhood.
Those of us who ventured to the thoroughfare in 2005 might remember the empty storefronts, the desolate stretches, and the very first rumblings from would-be H Street impresario Joe Englert. It was in August of that year that he opened the neighborhood watering hole the Argonaut, and pledged to our own Fritz Hahn that there would be more — a lot more.
“These would include the Pug, a boxing-themed sports bar,” Hahn wrote then, “the Red and Black, a rock club Englert describes as ’like DC9, but here’; the Rock N Roll Hotel, with live music and ’private rooms’ for parties; the Bee Hive, a Mexican restaurant; the Olympic, a sports bar with pool tables; Dr. Granville Moore's Brickyard, a more traditional tavern with a variety of European beers; and the Showbar, where Englert plans to showcase burlesque dancers, sword-swallowers and other nontraditional live entertainment.”
While we’re waiting (indefinitely) on the Bee Hive and the Olympic, H Street has bloomed in a little more than five years, to include music venues and fine restaurants, a bustling performance art space with its own annual festival. And, eventually, hopefully, a streetcar.
SEPTEMBER 2006: The Post’s Hahn profiles the edgy three-block stretch that encircles the Atlas Theater. “There's no other neighborhood where you'll find sword-swallowing bartenders,” he wrote, “hand dancing lessons and live go-go and indie-rock bands a few doors down from a black-box theater, cozy neighborhood taverns and soul food takeout joints.” It was the kind of place you get could get a shot of Jack Daniels and a haircut in a bar for $12, or settle in for a night of all-female arm-wrestling matches. Besides the Argonaut, the Palace of Wonders and the Rock and Roll Hotel, among the businesses then were Phish Tea, R&B Coffee and H St Martini Lounge, all now defunct. (Photo by Dennis Drenner for The Washington Post)
NOVEMBER 2006: The Atlas Theater, once a popular movie theater with neighborhood residents, and one of the few sites that withstood the devastation of the riots, hosts its grand reopening as a complex for dance, theater and education. The Atlas Performing Arts Center, as it’s called, becomes a trailblazer in the neighborhood’s revitalization. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post)
JULY 2008: H Street’s reputation as a national foodie destination is sealed when Granville Moore’s chef Teddy Folkman bests Bobby Flay in a mussels “Throwdown With Bobby Flay.” His popular pork belly-laced Moules Bleu clinch the battle. The same year brought the first wave of sit-down, destination restaurants, including Sticky Rice and the first Taylor Gourmet. (Photo by James M. Thresher for The Washington Post)
MAY 2009: The openings of H Street Country Club in 2009, Biergarten Haus the following fall, and Smith Commons just months later change the flavor of the neighborhood yet again: Hill staffers, Gallaudet students, and others begin to look to the strip as the un-Adams Morgan. Marion Barry is recast as a miniature golf version of “The Awakening,” the famous statue that was moved from Haines Point to National Harbor. (Photo by Evy Mages for The Washington Post)
OCTOBER 2010: The District Department of Transportation releases concrete details for a streetcar line that would run along H Street NE, further transforming the neighborhood. (Admittedly, it is not the first time the street car is promised, but construction does ultimately begin on the installation of tracks.) “The question now,” wrote Post reporter Derrick Kravitz, “is how to pay for the system.”
The streetcars, above, were delivered to the District in 2009, are stowed at Metro’s Greenbelt Yard. (Photo courtesy of the District Department of Transportation)
APRIL 2011: The narrow ramen shop Toki Underground opens, attracting diners who wait as long as two hours for a seat. Describing his recent visit to Toki, Robert Sietsema of New York’s Village Voice noted of the neighborhood: “It’s located on a stretch of H Street in the Northeast quadrant of the city that feels a little like Williamsburg with its mix of bars, coffee shops, and cafés.” (Photo by Matt McClain for The Washington Post)
MARCH 2012: H Streeters encounter a strange road block one winter’s day and learn that President Obama and Michelle Obama are paying a visit to newcomer Boundary Road. The commander in chief dined on the pierogies. It’s the first H Street visit for the president, but a year earlier, Michelle Obama dined at Sticky Rice. (Photo by Matt McClain for The Washington Post)