Minnehaha Theater

1213 U Street NW,
Washington, DC 20009

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gecp on August 21, 2013 at 8:54 am

News stories from the times state that Andrew J. Thomas,of the Thomas Brothers, who also leased and managed the Howard Theatre in 1911, was a manager of the Minnehaha Theater in/around 1910.

TLSLOEWS on April 20, 2010 at 4:26 pm

Interesting photo,nice looking chili shop.

HowardBHaas on November 27, 2009 at 1:55 pm

October 12, 2009 London’s The Guardian had an obit of Ben Ali:
View link

EcRocker on January 26, 2009 at 12:42 pm

Maybe things will get back to normal now that inaugaral week is over and the last of the crowds left this past weekend. I am liking it already. Not even a week in office and the opposing party is crying because they don’t have the power to stop progress and the veto power is no longer theirs.

So maybe now I can get in to the district soon and see if they have any pics of the old theatre.

EcRocker on January 26, 2009 at 9:54 am

You mean Mayor Fenty and Marion Barry have to pay?

Giles on January 26, 2009 at 9:41 am

I just read somewhere that only two people can eat at Ben’s for free, Obama and Bill Cosby… just thought I’d pass that interesting tidbit along.

EcRocker on January 26, 2009 at 2:50 am

Well I doubt I will be trying their chille out since it is made with meat and I am a vegitarian.

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on January 25, 2009 at 10:33 pm

ECR….It’s possible that the restaurant might have some photos of the former theater. It doesn’t hurt to ask. Besides, if you go there you can tell us if the chili is any good. :) Another source for photos or ads would be newspaper archives but that can be very time consuming.

EcRocker on January 25, 2009 at 12:07 am

I wonder if they have any on the walls at Bens. Next time I go up that way I may stop in but right now with all the hoopla of Inaugaration week they have been a little busy.

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on January 24, 2009 at 11:13 pm

What do you expect on short notice. LOL I’d like to see interior photos of the Minnehaha myself.

EcRocker on January 24, 2009 at 11:09 pm

LOL Lost. I know your intentions were good but I was talking about interior pictures of the Minnehaha when it was still a theatre.

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on January 24, 2009 at 1:21 pm

Thanks for adding Ben’s Chili Bowl as a Related Websites link. Two interior photos of Ben’s Chili Bowl can be seen here.

EcRocker on January 24, 2009 at 12:27 pm

Wow Ross thanks for the link. To bad there were no intereor shots. The person who built the Minnehaha was way ahead of his time for the size considering how small some of the roomes in multiplexes are.

Ross Melnick
Ross Melnick on January 24, 2009 at 11:41 am

Thanks to Lost Memory for the Ben’s Chili Bowl link above. Here is a photo on their website of the Minnehaha Theater.

EcRocker on January 24, 2009 at 3:52 am

Thanks Lost. I had no idea that it was a theatre before it became Bens. Obama and the DC Mayor Fenty had lunch there prior to the inaugaration day.

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on January 22, 2009 at 10:11 pm

Here is the website for Ben’s Chili Bowl.

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on March 2, 2007 at 6:14 pm

This is a photo of Ben’s Chili Bowl aka the former Minnehaha Theater.

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on March 1, 2007 at 7:57 pm

Architect was F.A. Hurlehane.

“Ben’s Chili Bowl/Minnehaha Theater Location: 1213 U Street, NW.

Ben’s Chili Bowl, founded in 1958, is one of the oldest continuous businesses on U Street. It is one of the few that survived both the riots that followed the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the years of disruptive Metro construction in the early 1970s. Virginia and Ben Ali have been its proprietors from the beginning. It has become a national landmark thanks to the patronage of Bill Cosby, who frequented Ben’s when he was courting his wife Camille. Cosby still makes it a point to visit â€" or pick up food from â€" Ben’s when he comes to Washington.

The proprietors display photographs that document the restaurant’s history. Ben’s occupies the former Minnehaha Theater, and the theater’s arched entrance is still visible in the outlines of Ben’s window. The theater was built in 1910 to a design by white architect F.A. Hurlehane. The theater was originally a nickelodeon, a modest neighborhood movie theater with a sloped floor and a projection booth high on the back wall of the auditorium. It was owned and operated from 1913 until 1920 by Sherman H. Dudley, who earlier had a career as a leading vaudeville performer. At that time African American businessmen were building and acquiring theaters throughout Washington, especially along U Street. The Minnehaha and the Georgia Theater on Georgia Avenue are the city’s only two remaining nickelodeons.

Robert K. Headley, Motion Picture Exhibition in Washington, D.C. (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co., 1999).

Ali family interview, 2001".