1990s

Carrying a Torch for the Olympics

Embed from Getty Images

One of the most memorable neighborhood block parties in recent memory kicked into gear as the Olympic flame came to Washington in the summer of 1996.  From Rockville to Reston, area residents got into the Olympic spirit as they welcomed the unusual guest.

The Shakespeare Theatre Company's Second Act

“Lansburgh Theatre Washington DC.” (Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons) https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Lansburgh_Theatre_Washington_DC.jpg

To be, or not to be on Capitol Hill: that was the question. For D.C.’s Shakespeare Theatre, the answer was not to be. After a six year residency at the Folger Shakespeare Library, located behind the Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress, the theatre company set off in 1992 to make a new home for itself in Penn Quarter downtown at the former site of Lansburgh’s Department store.

“The Logo Created by The President's Council on the Year 2000 Conversion, for use on the now defunct Y2K.gov,”December, 1998 (Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons) https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Y2K_Logo.gif

Metro Squashes the Y2K Bug

In the midst of the final countdown to the new millennium at 11:59 p.m. on December 31, 1999, people were waiting for more than confetti to fly and the ball to drop. Eyes around the world were locked on computer systems to see if the technology would advance with the clock. As news outlets had warned the public for months, the so-called Y2K bug was expected to affect, and potentially paralyze thousands of computer systems worldwide, and WMATA was taking no chances when it came to making sure Metro would be running when the year 2000 arrived. 

WHFS Sells Out the Deejay

WHFS deejays Damian Einstein (far right) and Weasel (front) pose with musician Jesse Colin Young (second from right) and an unidentfied record executive (far left) at WHFS headquarters in Annapolis, MD in 1983.  (Photo source: Handout photo/Steve King).

On June 11, 1989, 8,000 WHFS 99.1 listeners crowded into the parking lot in front of Joe’s Record Paradise in Wheaton, Maryland for an eight hour concert to protest, station owner, Duchossois Inc.’s, decision to remove Damian Einstein from the airways.  Damian introduced the DMV to the newest music before it exploded on the national scene, and his sudden absence from the airways shocked WHFS’s most loyal fans who feared that Duchossois intended to move on from the progressive rock format. Centered on the freewheeling deejay, the progressive rock format defined WHFS defined the station since 1968. 

Fans were right to be concerned.  Over the course of the next decade, WHFS ditched the deejay for “gold-throated “on-air personalities who aired songs from corporately manufactured playlists.  While these changes initially earned the station a score of new fans, by the end of the decade, it was clear that WHFS lost the loyal support of their “bumper-stickered fans” who felt as if they lost a friend.    

Gambling with Marion Barry's Summertime Legacy

Students participating in the Summer Jobs Program by preforming in the jazz band.  (Photo Source: Washington Evening Star. Used with permission from the DC Public Library Washingtoniana Special Collection).

For the first time since 1979, the future of the city’s Summer Youth Employment Program was in doubt after Sharon Pratt Dixon took the helm for a disgraced Marion Barry in 1991.  One of Pratt Dixon's main political objectives was to tackle the enormous budget deficit left in Marion Barry's wake.  The Summer Youth Employment Program was one of the first programs to be slashed from the budget which meant, for the first time since 1979, young Washingtonians seeking jobs through the program were not guaranteed a slot.  Sensing the tension around the budget cuts, Dixon appealed to the business community to help fill the void, effectively gambling with what might be considered Marion Barry's signature program.

Metro: It's Not Easy Being Green

“DCSubwayConstruction, August 1989” (Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons) https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:DCSubwayConstruction.jpg

December 28, 1991 marked an important milestone for the Metro and for Washington: the long-awaited Green Line finally opened for business. On that Saturday, complete with official speeches, balloons and plenty of pomp and circumstance, the Anacostia, Navy Yard and Waterfront stations opened their fare gates for the first time. Getting to this celebration was anything but easy, however. For many years, it had seemed that the Green Line would never become a reality, as the last color of the Metrorail project faced countless setbacks due to budgeting, route disputes, and construction methods.

A New Time for 9:30

“9:30 Club Washington DC 1990” (Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons) https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:9-30Club_WashingtonDC_1990.jpeg

The 1995 rumors were true. The famed 9:30 Club was gearing up to move from its downtown F Street location, to its new home at 815 V St. NW, formerly known as the WUST Radio Music Hall. While the club was known as a destination for alternative music in the 1980’s, it had just as strong a reputation for being cramped and dirty. Owners Seth Hurwitz and Rich Heinecke, hoped to create a larger and cleaner space, while keeping all of the 9:30’s atmosphere and character. And on January 5th, 1996, the reborn 9:30 Club opened with a concert from the Smashing Pumpkins.

The Jewel of U Street Reopens: The Lincoln Theatre

“The restored Lincoln Theatre, once a premier African-American entertainment venue, Washington, D.C.” (Photo Source: The Library of Congress) Highsmith, Carol M, photographer. The restored Lincoln Theatre, once a premier African-American entertainment venue, Washington, D.C. United States Washington D.C, None. [Between 1980 and 2006] Photograph. https://www.loc.gov/item/2011636050/.

After the 1968 riots ravaged U Street, the famed Lincoln Theatre fell into disrepair. On the evening of February 4th, 1994, however,1,200 invited guests attended a reopening gala for the Lincoln following a massive restoration project. For the first time in over 25 years, the burgundy curtain was rising on the Lincoln’s 38-foot-wide stage, and guests in attendance that night said that entering the restored theatre was like “stepping back in time.” 

Ballston Common: The Birth, Death, & Rebirth of the D.C. Area's First Major Shopping Mall

“To describe this shopping center in words is a bit difficult because of its extremely high efficiency in the use of every square foot.”

While it may be hard today to imagine the shopping center at the intersection of Arlington’s Glebe Rd. and Wilson Blvd. as an exciting and advanced piece of architectural planning, it truly was at its opening in 1951.  At the time, it was the largest suburban retail space on the East Coast, and the first ever to be built around a parking garage (which also happened to be the largest parking garage in the United States). This sort of retail design was an absolute novelty, and an early hallmark of both the post-War evolution of the American suburb, as well as the DC area’s growing population. Its name, however, was a little on the nose: Parkington.

Pages