The Clubhouse, Washington, DC

One story white brick commercial building with boarded up windows
The front (north) façade of 1296 Upshur St, NW (Commercial)

Photograph by Lisa P. Davidson, HABS.

Quick Facts
In July 1974, the Metropolitan Capitolites, a social club for black queer Washingtonians, selected 1296 Upshur St, NW as the site for its new nightclub venture: the ClubHouse. The MCs had already gained a local following for their popular house parties, which they started throwing in the 1960s as an alternative to discriminatory white bars. When they outgrew the house parties, the group started their own bars, the Zodiac Den and the Third World (both at 221 Riggs Road) – intimate bars with sizeable reputations but limited capacity.

The MCs added to the intrigue and anticipation surrounding the ClubHouse by requiring those who sought admission to apply to become members. When it finally opened in May 1975, the ClubHouse counted four hundred charter members. At its height, the club’s membership swelled to more than four thousand– with thousands more who attended as their guests. On a typical weekend night, more than eight hundred people filed into lines that wrapped around the block for the chance to party in the converted warehouse.

The nightclub gained an international reputation for its legendary DJs who pumped music though a sound system set up by audio engineers from New York’s Studio 54 and helped introduce house music to the District... Read the rest of the survey report...[pdf]

This Historic American Buildings Survey entry was written by Amber Bailey, the Historic American Buildings Survey/Society for Architectural Historians Sally Kress Tompkins Fellow for 2016. The Historic American Buildings Survey is a program of the National Park Service.

Last updated: December 18, 2017