Sunday, August 12, 2012

D.C.'s Uline Arena: Where the Beatles Played Their First U.S. Concert

There is a run-down parking garage in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. Commuters park their cars in the morning and leave in the evening without pausing to take a look around. People walk by without a glance. Train passengers look out the window and think nothing of it. But how many of these people know the magical history of this special place?

Before it was a parking garage, the Uline Arena was constructed in 1939 by Miguel L. "Uncle Mike" Uline for his professional ice hockey team Washington Lions. It was built along the tracks leading to Union Station in an area now known as NoMa (North of Massachusetts). The indoor arena opened in 1941 as the home arena of the Lions and hosted other events. Uline was also the home arena of the Red Auerbach-coached Washington Capitols of the Basketball Association of America.

But it wasn't until jewelry wholesaler Harry G. Lynn bought the arena in 1959 for $1 million, renamed it the Washington Coliseum, and made it a place for concerts that the place became world famous. That's because the Beatles performed their first U.S. concert there on February 11, 1964. So the Washington Coliseum/Uline Arena/parking garage will always be remembered as the first American venue chosen by the most popular and acclaimed rock band the world has ever known.

Click here for an excellent website with a pictorial history of Uline Arena with pictures and videos from the Beatles' concert and photos of sports memorabilia including programs for the Lions, Capitols and the hockey team that would later play there in the 1950s called the Presidents, and the later basketball team called the Caps.

Perhaps one day the building will be restored to its former glory as the neighborhood surrounding it is currently rapidly being developed. It would be great to see the history of the place honored and preserved while moving forward with a 21st century renovation.

Here are more photos of what the Uline Arena looks like today.