Hill Talk: U Street Visitor Center Opens Friday

Posted February 23, 2010 at 3:49pm

Most people know the U Street neighborhood for its eclectic mix of bars and restaurants, but there’s a great deal of history waiting to be rediscovered there, too. Unearthing that past will be easy when Cultural Tourism DC opens the doors to its new U Street Neighborhood Visitor Center (1211 U St. NW) this Friday.

What makes U Street unique? “Well, historically it’s one of the most important and influential African-American communities in the country,” said Jane Freundel Levey, director of heritage programs for Cultural Tourism DC. From the Civil War era to the present, the U Street neighborhood has played host to emancipated slaves, prominent African-American intellectuals, renowned musicians such as Duke Ellington, the riots of 1968 and more.

The visitor center’s opening coincides with the release of a new audio tour and updated guidebook intended to provide a complete overview of the area. Korva Coleman of National Public Radio, who attended nearby Howard University, serves as the lead narrator; other notable voices include Kamal Ben Ali, co-owner of Ben’s Chili Bowl, and Hari Jones of the African American Civil War Memorial and Museum.