Following their triumphant debut on the Ed Sullivan show on February 9, 1964, The Beatles very first concert in America took place at 8:31 p.m. on Tuesday, February 11, at the Washington Coliseum at 3rd & M Streets, NE. The sell-out show was attended by 8,092 screaming fans, who each paid ticket prices that ranged between $2 and $4. The audience included former Vice President Al Gore, then 16, and 18 year old, press pass wielding photographer Mike Mitchell, whose non-flash beautifully grainy photos of that evening encapsulate the birth of a generation. This opened the door to the ‘British Invasion’ at the dawn of one of America’s most tumultuous eras, and would influence the collective culture to this day.
50 years later, on Tuesday, February 11, 2014, this landmark concert will be reenacted as it occurred a half century ago on site at the historic Uline Arena (later known as The Washington Coliseum), with the iconic performance replicated by tribute band, Beatlemania Now. Opening the concert, as he did a half a century ago, the legendary Tommy Roe will be featured, in a live acoustic performance. Presented by the DC Preservation League and Douglas Development Corporation, tickets are on sale now atwww.beatlesyesterdayandtoday.com at $45 for general admission standing tickets and $100 for seating. Doors will open at 6pm; with a selection of goodies from local food trucks and live music performed by Something Wild, an exhibition of Mike Mitchell’s original photographs, which will be on sale with proceeds benefitting the DC Preservation League, as well as other surprises. The concert begins at the original time of 8:31 p.m. preceded by a 15-minute historic documentary featuring the history of The Washington Coliseum/Uline Arena from its concept and construction through its current and future incarnation.
Despite a raging east coast snowstorm, shortly before noon on the 11th, The Beatles, legendary DJ Murray the K, and select members of the press arrived at Manhattan’s Penn Station and boarded an old Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac railroad sleeper car named the King George headed for Washington, DC. The train ride gave the Beatles and the press an opportunity to interact by the time it pulled into Washington’s Union Station at 3:09 p.m. The Beatles opened with “Roll Over Beethoven.” The Chiffons, Tommy Roe, the Righteous Brothers, Caravelles, and Jay and the Americans were also on the bill.
When The Beatles climbed onto the stage just at 8:31 p.m. and even before they played a note, fans began screaming and photographers started taking a barrage of photos. The first American crowd also followed the British tradition of throwing jellybeans onto the stage. The screaming was so loud and hysterically persistent throughout the entire concert – and then – about 35 minutes after the Beatles climbed onto the stage, it was over.
In later years the building fell into disrepair—and is currently used as an indoor parking lot. The DC Preservation League included the building in its list of “Most Endangered Places for Washington” in 2003 and filed for landmark protection for the building. In 2006, the Arena was listed in the DC Inventory of Historic Sites and in the National Register of Historic Places the following year. One of Washington’s most preeminent developers, Douglas Development purchased the Arena in 2004 and plans to bring the iconic structure back to life as ‘The Coliseum.”
Washington Coliseum/Uline Arena Facts
- The Uline Ice Arena, which opened in February 1941, was built by Miguel L. “Uncle Mike” Uline for his hockey team, the Washington Lions of the now defunct Eastern Amateur Hockey League. He made his fortune in the ice business. The venue’s name was later changed to The Washington Coliseum.
- The first act was Sonja Henie‘s Hollywood Ice Revue. One of its first events was a pro-America rally designed to promote U.S. entry in World War II, just weeks before Pearl Harbor.
- In 1946, basketball legend Red Auerbach was tapped to coach the new Washington Capitols NBA franchise. Auerbach’s Capitols made the 1949 NBA finals, and three of the six games were played in D.C. Washington won two home games against the Minneapolis Lakers but lost the series 4-2. This was Auerbach’s first coaching job.
- At first, Uline sold tickets only to white patrons — except for boxing matches.
- The arena remained segregated until January 1948, despite pickets and boycotts. Uline told The Washington Post he had decided earlier to end segregation but was determined to wait until the pressure subsided.
- Jewelry wholesaler Harry G. Lynn bought the arena in 1959 for $1 million, and renamed it the Washington Coliseum the next year. In 1959, Elijah Muhammad gave a speech there.
- Earl Lloyd, the first African American athlete to play for the Washington Capitols of the National Basketball Association, played at Washington Coliseum on October 31, 1950.
- The photograph of Bob Dylan on the cover of Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits was taken at a concert at Washington Coliseum on November 28, 1965.
- In 1967, after a riot during a performance by The Temptations, concerts were banned.
- The American Basketball Association‘s defending Championship team, the Oakland Oaks moved to Washington as the Caps in 1969-70. The Oaks were owned by entertainer Pat Boone and had captured the ABA Championship in the 1968-69 season. However, Boone subsequently sold the team to Earl Foreman due to poor attendance in Oakland. Foreman relocated the franchise to Washington. Hall of Famers Rick Barry and Larry Brown played for the Caps, with Brown leading the league in assists and Barry averaging 27 points per game. The team finished 44-40 and was eliminated by the Denver Rockets in the playoffs. Plagued by poor attendance, the franchise relocated again and became the Virginia Squires following their one season in the Washington Coliseum.
- The building would fall into obscurity after the opening of the Capital Centre in suburban Landover, Maryland in 1973.
*Original photographs, architectural renderings of the Douglas Development ”Coliseum” redevelopment project and video available on request.
The DC Preservation League is Washington’s only citywide nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving and protecting the historic resources of our nation’s capital. Since its founding in 1971as Don’t Tear It Down, DCPL has helped preserve more than 175 individual landmarks and countless properties in historic districts across the city beginning with preventing the demolition of the Old Post Office Building on Pennsylvania Avenue, NW. Other notable successes for the organization include pursuing landmark nominations for the Warner Theatre, the Woodward and Lothrop building on F Street, NW, the Hecht Company Warehouse on New York Avenue, NE, and the landmark designation of the L’Enfant Plan for the City of Washington.
About Douglas Development
Founded in 1981, Douglas Development Corporation has earned a national reputation as a leader in redevelopment of historic properties. Douglas Development’s most notable, visible and well known projects are in Washington’s historic downtown and have served as the catalyst for the resurgence of the city’s most vibrant entertainment and retail district.
About Tommy Roe
Tommy is a multifaceted international artist who wrote, co-wrote, and recorded, six top ten hits between 1962, and 1969, more than any other single artist/songwriter during this period of the 60’s, with four RIAA certified gold records, and two of his hits, “SHEILA” and “DIZZY,” topping the Billboard chart at #1. Tommy had a total of eleven records reach the Billboard top forty, and twenty three Billboard top 100 chart records. With similar chart success in England, and throughout Europe, Asia, and Australia, Tommy is considered one of the early pioneers of American pop culture. Born Thomas David Roe, on May 9, 1942, in Atlanta, Georgia, Roe, who is sometimes known as the “father of bubble-gum music,” has sold more than 60 million records, including six Top 10 hits, and four Gold Records.
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Tommy Roe to perform on half-century anniv. of @thebeatles 1st North American concert Feb. 11 #Dizzy #TommyRoe – *|URL|*