Thursday, February 21, 2013
The Washington Coliseum in DC today is an abandoned ruin. But in its day it hosted some of the greatest concerts, sporting events, and political speeches of the 20th Century.
The venue will always be known as where The Beatles played their first U.S. concert after first appearing on the Ed Sullivan show. Their gig was held here February 11, 1964. Malcolm X spoke here. Bob Dylan and Patsy Cline sang here. Red Auerbach and the Washington Capitols played some of the greatest basketball in history here. Ice skating queen Sonja Henie performed on this floor. Rocky Marciano and many other champions boxed and bled here.
Someone on YouTube put together this awesome tribute piece to the old Coliseum. Absolutely brilliant work. I'd like to shake their hand.
There has been talk for the last twenty years about redeveloping the site into a performance art center. Here is one prospective drawing above. I remember visiting the old building in the late 1980s and thinking the place was doomed. The last time I saw the building garbage trucks were parked inside.
The venue was built in 1941 as an ice arena for professional hockey and was originally called the Uline Arena. The exterior of the building clearly shows this classic arched style.
Well, the Coliseum is still hanging tough, although I would bet it one day soon will meet the wrecking ball. The neighborhood surrounding the venue is rough and the crowds which would be drawn to shows there tend to be nasty. The Coliseum is near Union Station in DC up on Capitol Hill and even with all the recent gentrification it is still a dangerous place to be out and about at night.
Union Station itself recently lost its multiplex movie theater for the very same reason as I believe no one will develop the Coliseum site. Rough rowdy crowds (often unfairly pegged as African American youth) made watching movies there impossible.
I hope I'm wrong about the Coliseum. Imagine bringing this room back from the dead.