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True Reformers Hall

1200 U Street

"Throughout its existence, the True Reformers Building has reflected the life of the neighborhood around it"
-Linda Wheeler

From its inception, the True Reformers Hall has been a great model of pride for Washington D.C.sísblack society. Now a certified National Historic Landmark, the True Reformers Hall stood the test of time to become one of the great symbols of a community and its history. Built in 1903 by an all black group called the United Order of True Reformers, the building was to stand as a symbol "to the credit of the Negro race." Within the walls of this great masterpiece of black architecture was Chapmanís Tailoring and Designing School, Dr. Amanda Hilyer Grayís drugstore, as well as the famous Silver Slipper Club.

The mastermind of the creation of the building was John A. Lankford. Lankford is regarded as one of the most historically significant black architects. After completing the True Reformers Hall, Lankford was commissioned to plan the Negro Building at the Jamestown, Virginia, Exposition. Soon after that he became the principle architect for the African Methodist Episcopal Church, Lankford would design many AME church buildings all around the country.

After World War 1, the large space on the second floor became a popular dance hall. It was there that a young Duke Ellington came to play his first feature performance, at a matinee dance. Spanning the period from 1916-1920, this dance hall became a mainstay in jazz performance and the blossoming of the early jazz culture. Soon after, this historic second floor was converted to a gymnasium which housed the Metropolitan Police Boys Club, the only boys club in Washington to admit black children. During the late 1950ís,a dispute over the funding of the boys club led to its eventual closing. The site then became a distribution center for Duron Paint Co. which operated from the first floor. In 1996, the Tre Reformers Hall was purchased by J.J. Development Inc., which plans to restore the original details of this historic building.

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