1200 U St NW

The Grand United Order of True Reformers, a benevolent society based in Richmond, Virginia which provided insurance and banking services, bequeathed this architectural landmark to the city in 1903. Built, financed, designed and owned by African Americans, the building famously hosted Duke Ellington's first paid performance. Businesses such as Gray and Gray Druggists and Chapman's Tailoring and Design School, as well as social organizations such as the African American First Separate Battalion of the DC National Guard operated out of the building. The building was purchased by the Knights of Pythias in 1917. The Elks Columbia Lodge No. 85, incorporated in 1906, held its first meeting here, gaining fame for their grand parades on U Street. The Boys Club of the Metropolitan Police occupied the building in the 1940s. By the 1970s, the Duron Paint Company was the only remaining occupant. Explore the history of the building and those who used it through the images and videos from George Washington's Special Collections, the MLK DC Public Library and the Library of Congress.

True Reformer Building
True Reformer Building

Images courtesy of MLK DC Public Library/George Washington Library

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Knights of Pythias plaque
Knights of Pythias plaque

Images courtesy of MLK DC Public Library/George Washington Library

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True Reformer building boarded up
True Reformer building boarded up

Images courtesy of MLK DC Public Library/George Washington Library

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True Reformer Building
True Reformer Building

Images courtesy of MLK DC Public Library/George Washington Library

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