Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Washington Walks and Drinks

Though Alex and I have been dying to start doing all things DC, we have also been trying to get settled in our apartment and spend time making new friends and seeing old ones. This hasn't given us much time to get out and explore, even in our own neighborhood.

So when we saw that Washington Walks was hosting their annual Columbia Heights Historic Drinkabout posted on the New Columbia Heights blog, we knew it was time to schedule a break from the painting, cleaning, and curtain sewing to see the sites of Columbia Heights!

The tour began on 14th Street in front of the Columbia Heights Metro Station between Irving Street and Park Road. 

Our lovely tour guide Brian Kraft, wrote the book on Columbia Heights, literally. Brian penned the Columbia Heights chapter of "Washington at Home," published in 2010. Brian also wrote the historic street signs “Cultural Convergence: Columbia Heights Trail,” which were developed and installed by Cultural Tourism DC. So needless to say, the dude knew what he was talking about.

Columbia Heights was one of Washington, DC’s most important shopping and entertainment destinations outside downtown in the early to mid 1900's. In 1914, the first street car made it's way to Columbia Heights, which gave residents the chance to get to downtown DC and shoppers a chance to get to their favorite five and dime stores in just 20 minutes. In 1924, the Tivoli Theatre, Columbia Heights' first movie theatre, was built. The Tivoli closed in 1976, but was reopened in 2005 as a stage theatre.

Now that we've had a bit of history, it was time to get our first drink. We started off at The Heights, a neighborhood restaurant and bar.

Alex and I actually stopped in for dinner at The Heights when we were looking at apartments back in January. The decor is neat and the beer and wine list is extensive, however, that's about all The Heights has got going for it. The food: not so great. The service: so-so. And, it just doesn't have the homey feel you'd expect from a neighborhood pub. It's just kind of eh.

Adding insult to injury, this girl was very excited about getting an Allagash White on tap outside of New England.

But they only had Bell's Seasonal and Star Northern Lights available. Burn.

The Bell's Seasonal was pretty good though, and there was no time to savor. It was time to get back to the wonder that is Columbia Heights, Washington, DC.

But first, in addition to being full of history, Columbia Heights has it's fair share of Justin Beiber fans. I'd go as far as to say that Beiber Fever is sweeping the neighborhood. Good thing we brought hand sanitizer along with us.

In the 1920s, Columbia Heights became a popular place to live, leading to the construction of large apartment buildings in place of the quaint row houses. As the neighborhood became more urban, the population began to diversify. Though still racially segregated in the 1940s, Columbia Heights became a bustling middle class metropolis equally split between black families and white.

In 1968, the Columbia Heights hit somewhat of a dark period. After the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 4, riots ravaged the streets. Buildings burned for days at a time and storefronts, smashed in and looted, were left in rubble, unable to recover. Though the city promised funds to help businesses rebuild, many didn't survive. Columbia Heights has still not fully recovered and only began to economically regain strength in the early 1990s.

Next up on the drinkabout portion of the walking tour is Wonderland Ballroom. In 2004, the Wonderland Ballroom opened at corner of 11th and Kenyon Street. The bar was the former home of the historic Nob Hill Bar, Washington, DC's first black gay bar.

When we stepped inside, Alex and I were immediately in love with the eclectic decor and the fun atmosphere.

We saddled up to the bar, which has an impressive list of beers on tap, and ordered a Leffe Blonde and a Yuengling.

We found two cozy seats in the back, and ended up strategically placed near our tour guide who gave us a great list of bars and restaurants that we should check out in the area. Being new in the neighborhood we were more than happy for a few good recommendations.

Back on the street, we concluded our tour of Columbia Heights. The tour continued on to the Commonwealth Gastropub and Bar, but we headed home to meet Andy and Kim for dinner at Casa Oaxaca in Adams Morgan.

1 comment:

  1. There's only one cure for bieber fever..

    either listening to him or not listening to him. I'm not sure how this works. Brutally windy days may have something to do with it.