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Bohemian Caverns

2001 11th Street

"It was one big jam session."
George Botts

Located at the corner of 11th and U Streets, the Bohemian Caverns, originally named the Crystal Caverns, was a major site in the formulation of the rich jazz tradition which came about in the 1920’s. Opened in 1926 in the basement of the Davis drugstore, Bohemian Caverns was frequented by black Washington’s most influential citizens. Bohemian Caverns closed its doors during the late 1940’s only toreopen in September 1959 under the ownership of Tony Taylor and Angelo Alvino, two of Washington D.C.'’s most prominent jazz enthusiasts.

The Bohemian Caverns was a place where many, both black and white, who loved jazz, would come to play and listen to the music they loved. During prohibition, when all other clubs closed at midnight, the Caverns was a place where entertainers and guests would gather late into the night through the early morning hours to dine on a simple menu of pork chops and chicken, and to drink their liquor in tea cups. As a typical night would progress, musicians and other entertainers from neighboring clubs would come by after they had finished working to enjoy the late night jam sessions. However there was one condition that these entertainers were allowed to enter the club, as musician George Botts put it, "If you came in, you had to do a number!" Throughout its historic run, performers such as Shirley Horne, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Billie Holliday, and Pearl Bailey played the Caverns. Whenever in town, comedians Redd Foxx and Slappy White would drop in and take part in the experience. Hollie L. West writes that ‘In its time, the club became the place in Washington to hear the most contemporary development of Jazz".

By 1968, the crowds that used to fill the Bohemian Caverns began to fade slowly, and coupled with the civil disturbances following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the clubs fate was sealed. It closed in September 1968. However with the current resporation of U. Street, a new owner has purchased the Bohemian Caverns and is planning to reopen in August of 1999.

  • Photo of the Interior of Bohemian Caverns / Crystal Caverns
  • Souvenir from Bohemian Caverns / Crystal Caverns

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