Not So Long Ago: Wisconsin and M St.

This week for Not So Long Ago, GM stops by Wisconsin Ave. just above M St. where the Vinyard Vines and Bebe shops now sit.

In 1993, the Vinyard Vines store housed Britches Great Outdoors, a branch of the Georgetown-based Britches chain. GM was a big fan of Britches back in the day when a Britches Great Outdoors was at his local Connecticut mall. The chain went bankrupt in 2002.

The clothing store Wet Seal opened here sometime around 2003. It stayed open until a few years ago when Vinyard Vines opened up.

It’s impossible to discuss 1225 Wisconsin without mentioning that it was the location of Mr. Henry’s from 1967 to 1986. This bar (known primarily as a gay bar) was famous for being the place where Roberta Flack launched her career.

Next door in 1993 there was a branch of Roberto Donna’s Il Radiccho brand restaurant. Upstairs was a deli/market called Il Pane (that’s Italian for bread). The restaurants stayed open until sometime around 2000. By 2002 Bebe had moved in.

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21 Comments

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21 responses to “Not So Long Ago: Wisconsin and M St.

  1. Brad Altman

    Topher, I hate to contradict you but there never was a Mr. Henry’s at 1225 Wisconsin Ave. There was one at Tenly Circle and the famous Mr. Henry’s of Roberta Flack fame is at 601 Pennsylvania Ave SE on Capitol Hill. The site you are referring to was The American Cafe in the 80’s and may have been an Annies Steakhouse before. They have a gay following and the original is near Dupont Circle

  2. Jacques

    Before Il Pane, there was a very tasty Italian sandwich shop up on the second floor called Luciano’s Cafe. Luciano was quite a character, but he didn’t seem to have the business sense to make it there long-term, especially with the added challenge of not being on the street.

  3. Old Georgetowner

    I think the infamous “Maximilian Rochambeau” had a club in that building back in the early Nineties. He later moved over to M Street.

    http://www.angelfire.com/art2/delacroix_berthier/meet_de_la_croix.%20part%203.htm

  4. Topher

    Brad, you might be right, but what I read is that Flack started at the Georgetown Mr. Henry’s and then the club owner, Henry Yaffe, recognized her talent and then built a room for her at his Capitol Hill location.

    This site seems to confirm that there was a Mr. Henry’s at 1225 Wisconsin Ave.:

    http://www.rainbowhistory.org/clubs.pdf

  5. Topher

    Here’s from a bio I found:

    Meanwhile, music remained a central part of Flack’s life outside of the workplace. She directed church choirs and began taking voice lessons, concentrating primarily on opera, with Frederick “Wilkie” Wilkerson. She also began taking on voice students of her own. Eventually, Wilkerson convinced Flack to give pop music a try. At first she considered the suggestion an insult, but over time she began making appearances at local clubs, both as a pop singer and as a piano accompanist for others. By 1967 Flack had gained a healthy local following, and was singing five nights a week at a nightclub on K Street in Washington. She was discovered there by Henry Yaffe, who brought her to his trendy new Georgetown club Mr. Henry’s. By 1968 she was drawing such a crowd to the club that Yaffe opened a special room at his other location near Capitol Hill to showcase her talent. She also found time for a social life during this period, culminating in her 1966 marriage to Stephen Novosel, a jazz bassist.

    Read more: http://www.answers.com/topic/roberta-flack#ixzz1cew9n6YQ

    I guess it would be fairer to say she was “discovered” at the K St. club (the Bayou maybe?).

  6. George M

    I remember a Mr. Henry’s in Georgetown at the same time as the American Cafe but that Mr. Henry’s closed around 1980-81 (it started getting mostly straight customers when they hired a teenaged Tori Amos to play piano)and the American Cafe followed suit a few years later. But 1225 Wisconsin definitely housed the American Cafe during the 1970’s and early 1980’s.

  7. Phil

    Wasn’t there a regular Britches a little further up Wisconsin, like around where Polo is now?

  8. The space next door was Britches Great Outdoors, Britches of Georgetown–which sold mens suits–was where Ralph Lauren currently is.

    Use to work for Britches Great Outdoors. That building is supposedly haunted.

    They used to sell canned Clyde’s chili. Would eat some nearly every lunch. Had no regard for my coworkers.

  9. Tom

    Mr. Henry’s was rollicking, but it was Mr. Henry’s on Capitol Hill, Pennsylvania Ave., S.E., where Roberta Flack performed and from which she became a hit.

  10. Carol Joynt

    I think the gay steakhouse was called Paramount? Does that sound right? American Cafe was great, a landmark endeavor … for Georgetown and the food industry. The owner sold it to a corporation and then it began to slide. And remember when there was Boogey’s or Boogie’s, where now we have the Apple Store?

  11. The steakhouse was called Dino’s Paramount steakhouse and served the best sizzling steaks in the city. And there was nothing gay about Dino’s. Everybody went there. And before there was an American Cafe next door there was Brit’s 24 hour diner where all the jazz artists from Blues Alley would go at 4 in the morning and artists from the Cellar Door would hang there, as well as most of the waiters of Georgetown after their respective restaurants closed. I personally took comedians Redd Foxx and Richard Pryor to Brits. Roberta Flack performed more at Mr. Henry’s on Capitol Hill than in Georgetown.

  12. A note to Jacques: Before Luciano’s on the second floor was Blimpie’s, the original foot long sandwich shop (there’s still one up in New Jersey).

  13. Pingback: Neighborhood News Roundup: Your Receipt, Please Edition - City Desk

  14. Bob Chorba

    In the latest Pelecanos “The Way It Was” Derek Strange has Roberta Flack starting out at Clyde’s. This is news to me. Comments?

  15. Fuzzy Pricer

    The Bayou was strictly a rock and blues venue, and it was UNDER K st. on Water St. down by the river. Go down the hill on Wisconsin, pass the Church, turn left and there it was. Closed down long ago.

  16. steve

    There was a Mr. henry’s on Wisconsin Ave. in the late 1960’s. I worked there

  17. Joe

    And nobody mentions Mr. Smith’s on M Street in the 60s-70s.

  18. Richard

    Yep, My one year in DC, 1983-84, Mr. Henry’s in Georgetown was a favorite gay hangout. I especially remember it being packed on Half-Price Hamburger night (I think this was on Tuesdays).

  19. There was definitely a Mr. Henry’s at 1225. Mr. Henry’s Georgetown was owned by Avery Morrison and Larry Samuel. I bartended, waitered and managed the place from 1975-1980. The American CafĂ© was next door down the street. Mr. Henry’s Georgetown catered to a gay crowd but never declared itself as such because of it’s dependence on the tourist crowd in Georgetown. Some of the best years of my early life were spent within those walls.

  20. I seem to remember a Mr Henry’s on Columbia Road in Adams Morgan as well as all the ones mentioned here. In my now 60 years on earth I never felt more connected to my fellow brothers then during the Sunday afternoon/evening Broadway show tune sing-a-longs with the piano player at the Mr Henry’s at 1225 Wisconsin Ave from say 1977 to 1980. And yes, it was Dino’s Paramount Steak House and yes it was very straight, not gay. The gay on was the hole in the wall on 17th street.

  21. Pingback: St. Elmo’s Georgetown | The Georgetown Metropolitan

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