Location: Washington, DC, USA
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The Whitelaw Hotel is a registered national historic site located in Washington, DC’s Cardozo/Shaw neighborhood. The building was developed by John Whitelaw Lewis, a Black entrepreneur who was the founder of the Industrial Savings Bank. Completed in 1919, the Whitelaw is notable for being designed by one of America’s first Black architects, Isaiah T. Hatton, as well as having been completely financed by Black professionals.
Containing a mixture of hotel rooms and apartments, The Whitelaw was a premier hotel in its heyday and attracted Black celebrities, notables, and professionals who were barred from staying at DC’s other posh locations due to segregation.
During the Depression, many former guests were unable to afford to stay at The Whitelaw Hotel. Occupancy rates decreased and the hotel fell into disrepair. When the economy rebounded, the hotel continued to struggle because it’s former middle and upper-class clientele was now able to stay at formerly White Only hotels. Following the 1968 riots, the remaining middle-class tenants fled and like the surrounding neighborhood, the building became a haven for drug use and crime.
The story of the Whitelaw Hotel is an interesting case study in Black history with regards to the transition from segregation to the increase in drugs and crime in the 1970s. It’s a reflection of the historical timeline of many Black neighborhoods in Washington, DC as well as across the rest of the country.
- HouseHistoryMan. “History of the Whitelaw Hotel & Apartments at 13th and T Streets, NW.” History of the Whitelaw Hotel & Apartments at 13th and T Streets, NW, 1 Jan. 1970, househistoryman.blogspot.com/2014/08/history-of-whitelaw-hotel-apartments-at.html.
- Whitaker, Joseph D. “Whitelaw Hotel Is Closing After Checkered HistoryOnce Elite Whitelaw Is Closing After Long Decline.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 4 July 1977, www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/1977/07/04/whitelaw-hotel-is-closing-after-checkered-historyonce-elite-whitelaw-is-closing-after-long-decline/cf410a9f-8327-4a7c-bca0-c9540593aba9/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.ef36fc56664a.
- “Whitelaw Hotel.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 22 Feb. 2019, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whitelaw_Hotel.
- “Www.culturaltourism.org.” Whitelaw Hotel, African American Heritage Trail – Www.culturaltourism.org, www.culturaltourismdc.org/portal/whitelaw-hotel-african-american-heritage-trail.
- Image Credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Whitelaw_Hotel.jpg
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