In an era when most of Washington’s fine restaurants excluded black customers, Harrison’s Café satisfied a variety of appetites.
Left: Undated photo of Harrison’s Café at 455 Florida Avenue NW. Image from the Scurlock collection. Right: The same building today.
Located at 455 Florida Avenue NW, Harrison’s served everything from 20¢ hamburgers to lobster meals. The restaurant was popular among Howard University professors, musicians performing at the Howard Theatre three blocks away, and among LeDroit Park residents who were excluded from the tony restaurants downtown.
Robert Hilliard Harrison, the proprietor, first opened a candy store down the block at 467 Florida Avenue NW and in 1920 opened the cafe a few doors down at 455.
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 after a 42-year run.
The undated photo above is from the Smithsonian’s Scurlock photo archive. Addison Scurlock (1883-1964) was a prolific Washington photographer whose studio stood at the corner of 9th & U Streets NW from 1911 to 1976. During his lifetime, Mr. Scurlock’s studio photographed mundane portraits and scenes in Washington, but also photographed famous people such as Frederick Douglass, Marian Anderson at the Lincoln Memorial, and Martin Luther King and FDR at Howard University.
Following the closure of the studio, the Smithsonian purchased its extensive collection of negatives. The Scurlock archive is a fascinating photographic chronicle of black Washington spanning from the Jazz Age to the 1968 riots.
Cross-posted at Left for LeDroit.