DC -- U Street -- Whitelaw Hotel (1839 13th St NW):
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- WHITEL_200417_07.JPG: Celebrating
100 Years of the Whitelaw
- Description of Subject Matter: Whitelaw Hotel
Location: 1839 13th Street, NW
The Whitelaw Hotel, currently a subsidized apartment complex operated by Manna, Inc., was built in 1919 as an apartment hotel, a popular early 20th-century housing arrangement. A first-class operation, the Whitelaw was named for the mother of its builder, entrepreneur John Whitelaw Lewis. Architect Isaiah T. Hatton, designer of the Southern Aid Society Building at Seventh and T streets, NW, designed the Whitelaw in the Italian Renaissance Revival style. African Americans have been in the hotel business at least since the mid-nineteenth century.
The Whitelaw served well-known entertainers who were performing on or near U Street as well as visitors drawn to Washington for meetings of national black organizations, all of whom were unable to rent rooms in the city's luxury hotels because of discrimination. For new migrants, especially single ones, the Whitelaw Hotel was a more posh alternative to area rooming houses. As a hotel, the Whitelaw offered more services than the apartment buildings that opened in and near downtown during the same period. With its generous public spaces, the Whitelaw became an important social center, hosting parties and annual balls.
John Whitelaw Lewis, a promoter of black solidarity and economic self-sufficiency, had founded the Industrial Savings Bank in 1913, housed in the Laborer's Building and Loan Association building (11th and U streets, NW).
The Whitelaw deteriorated badly as the end of legal segregation in public accommodations opened up many more options for African Americans. The drug culture of the 1960s furthered its decline. Finally in 1977 the DC Government cited the owners for voluminous building code violations, and the hotel was closed. In 1991 Manna, Inc., acquired the property and began its restoration. The building re-opened in 1992 as a private apartment building. It was listed that year on the DC Inventory of Historic Sites, and a year later on the National Register of Historic Places.
The above was from http://www.culturaltourismdc.org/info-url3948/info-url_show.htm?doc_id=206743&attrib_id=7970
The Whitelaw Hotel and "The Duke":
The elegant Whitelaw Hotel at the corner of 13th and T Streets opened its doors in 1919, offering African American travelers their first opportunity to stay in a first-class hotel in the segregated nation's capital. Inside, they found a lobby with fine rugs and potted palms, a richly decorated dining room, comfortable rooms, and convenience shops on the first floor.
The Whitelaw was the creation of African American business entrepreneur John Whitelaw Lweis, who also built the Industrial Bank building on U Street. A former construction worker turned developer and financier, he hired a black building and Isaiah T. Hatton, a black architect, to make the hotel a reality. Its restaurant/ballroom was a favorite choice for elite dinner parties and dances. The clientele included many of the famous of the day -- Cab Calloway, Joe Louis, and the neighborhood's own native son, Edward Kennedy (Duke) Ellington.
Duke Ellington lived nearby from age 11 to 18 -- at 1806 13th Street from 1910 to 1914, and across the street at 1816 13th Street from 1915 to 1917. While living here, he chose music over baseball, soaking up the varied and rich musical traditions of the neighborhood. He was inspired by Armstrong High School music teacher Henry Grant, by traveling pianists, by church choirs, and by teachers at the Washington Conservatory of Music and School of Expression at Ninth and T Streets.
Ellington left for better opportunities in New York in 1923, but frequently returned to play the Howard Theater and nightclubs in his old neighborhood, where his magnificent style made him the hometown favorite. The Whitelaw Hotel, where he sometimes stayed, has now been converted into affordable apartments by Manna, Inc. Its ballroom has been restored to its former grandeur, and continues to be a community gathering place.
The above was from http://www.culturaltourismdc.org/usr_doc/U_St_Heritage_Trail_brochure.pdf
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