I was reminded of that again the other night, as I ventured over to the H Street Corridor and the new jazz club, HR-57 Center for the Preservation of Jazz and Blues. Its name comes from a congressional resolution in 1987, which designated jazz as “a rare and valuable national American treasure.”
HR-57 had recently moved here, from a more established area in downtown, and oh, what a nice and friendly little place it was, with alto saxophonist Antonio Parker and his quartet, all local musicians, playing some strong modern jazz and with the son of an old high school friend from Santa Monica, CA, at the piano.
HR-57 is part of the revived H Street NE Corridor, also called the Atlas District after the renovated art deco Atlas Performing Arts Center from 1938. During my many earlier years in Washington, I never or rarely ventured there, because there really was nothing there, as it was pretty much destroyed in the riots after Martin Luther King’s assassination in 1968.
The same thing happened to the area around U and 14th Streets, once a focal point for many black jazz musicians. It has made its remarkable comeback in the last decade, and, now, it seems to be the H Street Corridor’s turn. Once again, this area is popping, with H Street Playhouse and with restaurants, bars, and clubs, like HR-57, Rock & Roll Hotel, Pug Bar, H Street Country Club, etc.
Along the 1.5 mile long H Street NE, Washington’s new trolley will begin to run next spring, as streetcars are brought back to the nation’s capital after an absence of over 50 years. The H Street line is part of the first step in what could become a 37-mile citywide network, connecting the H Street Corridor with Union Station. It will likely quicken the re-birth of this area, which was once a main commercial street in the city. The transition is not yet completed, but it is on its way and it’s exciting and fun.