Monday, January 15, 2018

On the go again...

And as usual, I traveled by train.  On the way in or out of Washington Union Station from the north, all long distance and commuter trains pass by an unremarkable, huge old, quonset-hut-styled building,  made of concrete.  Many folks ride by it on the train daily, and have no clue as to its significance in sports, music and political history.  That previously-uninspiring edifice on the east side of the tracks is the former Uline Arena.

It has quite a history...

Per Wikipedia, The 11,000-seat Uline Ice Arena, which opened in February 1941, was built by Miguel L. "Uncle Mike" Uline for his ice hockey team, the Washington Lions of the now-defunct
Eastern Amateur Hockey League.   Uline built the arena next to his ice business, in which he had made his fortune. The first act at the new arena was reportedly Sonja Henie's Hollywood Ice Revue. Another of its earliest events was a pro-America rally in 1941 designed to promote U.S. entry into WW II, just weeks before the attack on Pearl Harbor brought the US into the war on December 7, 1941. During the war, Uline repurposed the arena as a housing facility for U.S. service members.

After World War II ended in 1945, the arena was restored for use as an ice hockey and basketball venue.  The  Washington Capitols (not the current DC team) began play as a charter member of the Basketball Association of America in 1946 and became a charter member of the National Basketball Association (NBA) in 1949.  During its mere five seasons of play, the team used Uline Arena as its home court.

One of President Dwight Eisenhower's two inaugural balls (in 1953) was held at Uline Arena. Retired boxer Joe Louis made his debut as a professional wrestler on March 16, 1956, defeating Cowboy Rocky Lee.

Jewelry wholesaler Harry G. Lynn bought the arena in 1959 for $1 million. In 1959, Elijah  Muhammad gave a speech there, and Malcolm X once spoke there as well.  In 1960, Lynn renamed the building the Washington Coliseum.

The one many of us will remember:  on February 11, 1964, the Beatles played their first concert in the United States at the Washington Coliseum, less than 48 hours after the band's appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show.  (Tickets to the show at the Coliseum ranged from $2 to $4.) There were 8,092 fans at the concert, which was opened by the Chiffons, the Caravelles, and Tommy Roe. For those who don't remember,  the Beatles reportedly opened with "Roll Over Beethoven."

And now, the building is being renovated - extra floors have been added for more space, probably offices.  From an ice arena, to a sports venue, to a coliseum, then a trash transfer station, to a renovated property...that's a brief history of the rather unassuming, but very historic, building.

On this trip I traveled in androgynous mode.  I was concerned about meeting someone I know, since I was headed to a conference in the south...but in fact, that didn't happen.  However, I noticed that
I had lost my male identity (never hearing that dreaded "S" word enroute.)   But, I was also "not promoted to female status."  Very rarely was I addressed as female on the trip south.  (With one notable exception, which I'll relate in another post), 

C'est la vie.



  1. Thanks for the history on the Washington Coliseum. It has had a storied past.
    Good luck on your trip.

    1. I've told parts of the Uline story to various seat mates on the train over the years, and very few have heard of it. Amazing...

      Thanks, having a good time.