March 27, 2011 - 8:19 pm

Scurlock archives: Harrison’s Café

If you have ever walked by Nellie’s Sports Bar at 9th and U Streets NW, you may have noticed a small plaque on the wall noting the site of the former Scurlock Studio.

Addison Scurlock (1883-1964) was a prolific Washington photographer whose studio stood at that corner from 1911 to 1976. During his lifetime, Mr. Scurlock’s studio photographed mundane portraits and scenes, but also photographed famous people such as Frederick Douglass, Marian Anderson at the Lincoln Memorial and Martin Luther King and FDR at Howard University.

The Smithsonian purchased his collection and in paging through the online catalog, we found several photographs of scenes around LeDroit Park. This is the first in a series of photos.

[Toggling between now and then photos will not work in RSS readers. View the actual post]


This undated photograph shows Harrison’s Café, which stood at 455 Florida Avenue NW on the edge of LeDroit Park. It was a neighborhood restaurant and bar that attracted the various musical and academic notables of the area.


Update: We took a trip to the Washingtoniana Division of the MLK Library and found more information on Harrison’s Café.

Robert Hilliard Harrison opened a candy store at 467 Florida Avenue NW and soon opened his cafe at 455 Florida Avenue NW in 1920. Harrison’s Café catered to a variety of appetites, serving fancy lobsters to 20-cent hamburgers.  In an era of segregated restaurants, black residents have fewer dining choices and Harrison’s tried to serve them all.

Attached to the cafe, Mr. Harrison also owned the Golden Room, which hosted banquets and private events.  Above the cafe, Harrison’s served liquor privately after the city’s midnight liquor curfew.

After World War II, LeDroit Park, like other close-in urban neighborhoods suffered from disinvestment and decline.  Mr. Harrison died in 1957 and the restaurant closed in 1962.

Further reading: