1980s

Encore: How the Tivoli became the Epicenter of a Debate over Urban Renewal

The revitalized Tivoli Theater in Columbia Heights, with tan walls and a red roof in an Italian architectural style. There is a large marquee, and signs with the word "Tivoli."

The Tivoli Theater's grand opening in 1924 was heralded by a grand parade and a carnival which attracted hundreds of Washingtonian's to the Golden Age movie theater. Yet, just over 50 years later, the Tivoli had its windows bolted up and doors closed, no longer the shining light in the Columbia Heights neighborhood. What followed afterwards was a dramatic decades-long fight over the fate of the Tivoli, bringing up questions surrounding urban renewal and the future of the neighborhood, which had suffered greatly after the 1968 riots following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 

GALA Hispanic Theatre: Celebrating Latin American Culture in the Arts

A closeup on the marquee of the Tivoli theatre. A vertical red sign reads "GALA" and the words on the marquee advertise ticket sales.

The 1970s and 1980s saw increased Latin American immigration to the United States, and to D.C. in particular. At the time, there was limited access to Latin American performing arts, something that Rebecca Read and Hugo Medrano sought to fix when they founded Grupo de Latinoamericanos Artistes (GALA) in 1976. They never expected, though, that GALA would take off and eventually become the National Center for the Latino Performing Arts. Their journey to becoming cultural icons in D.C. also coincided with the changing Latin American community in the District.

A white rectangular poster depicts a message handwritten by a Gallaudet student during the “Deaf President Now” protests. “To Board of Trustees” is written at the top of the poster followed by an image of a coiled red snake. Below the snake is a statement in capital letters that reads “Don’t tread on Gallaudet we want a deaf presidents now and demand four things. Deaf never give up.”

Bet on Gallaudet

Against the backdrop of the city, Gallaudet University students, faculty, and alumni transformed their campus protest into a national fight for civil rights, refusing to accept anything less than a “Deaf President Now.” 

A Christmas Benefit at the Height of an Epidemic

The Whitman-Walker Clinic's Original Location. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

In December of 1986, parents were rushing to the stores to snatch a Cabbage Patch Kid, G.I. Joe or Teddy Ruxpin off the shelf before they were all gone. That same month, the generosity of a local benefactor was a touching reminder of what the holiday season is really about. On Dec. 21, 1986, Robert Alfandre welcomed 30 people infected with AIDS into his home in northwest Washington for a Christmas party.

Remembering Kit Kamien

Kit Kamien at the recording studio (Source: Kit Kamien and the Backroom Players)

“I personally want to try and change the stereotype of what somebody in a wheelchair is like… I want to be judged not on my disabilities but on my abilities. I think people get frightened by the wheelchair… It’s a powerful visual symbol, but it’s not a symbol of defeat. It’s a tool I use to help me accomplish my goals. Just by climbing into the wheelchair, I don’t have to surrender my sexuality, my sensuality, my good sense of humor, or anything," said Kit Kamien, a Bethesda musician who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at the age of 26, to The Washington Post in 1987.

The Birchmere Gets Its Start

Exterior of the original Birchmere location

Gary Oelze purchased a Shirlington restaurant called the Birchmere in the mid 1960s. At the time, he wasn't planning to get into the music business. But soon, the Birchmere became a hub for bluegrass music in the nation's capital. Today, it is an internationally renowned music hall that draws fans of every musical genre. 

End of an Era: The Evening Star Fades in Washington

“There is a great silence today in Washington. A fine newspaper is gone and a noble tradition ended.”

Ronald Reagan’s words appeared on the front page of the August 7, 1981, issue of the Washington Evening Star. The biggest piece of news that day was the end of a 128-year-old Washington institution—the story of the newspaper’s own demise.

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