The Final Post: Implications of Abandoned D.C.

Over the semester, we’ve chronicled a multitude of abandoned venues, from the location of the first Beatles concert to the forlorn and forgotten Embassy of Pakistan. Our goal was not only to raise awareness to the juxtaposition of decay and urban living, but to also bring to attention the rich history of the buildings themselves and the socio-economic reasons for their abandonment.

The existence of abandoned building space has several implications for marketers. This post is a culmination of our exploration of the consumer value of the buildings as well as how this topic is relevant to marketing and consumer behavior.

1. How to Raise Awareness

The existence of this blog allowed us as the creators to connect with our readers; some readers were encouraged to explore the venues that we covered, and shared their experiences with us! We encourage you wholeheartedly to explore, but you would be doing yourself a disservice if you did not also educate yourself on the narrative the buildings hold. (Just be careful because as we involuntarily discovered, security guards can in fact give out trespassing citations. And fines. Who knew?)

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Readers venture out on their own!

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2. What Happens Next?

While some of the buildings have been bought by companies with plans for redevelopment, many are left vacant. How can these buildings be utilized?

Pop-Up Stores

Trend products usually “pop-up” unannounced, draw large crowds, and then disappear as quickly as they were introduced. Thus, a retail venues that can be as temporary as the product itself are becoming increasingly common. Many of these pop-up stores establish themselves in abandoned spaces, which are bought out or rented.

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A vacant parking lot is employed as a venue for a PUMA pop-up shop

3. How Is This Information Relevant To Marketers?

Abandoned spaces offer cheap advertising and marketing opportunities! Marketers can capitalize on empty window displays and blank walls.

Virtual Shop Fronts/Projection Advertising

Virtual shop fronts and projection advertising allow marketers to demonstrate to consumers how the space could be utilized. Below, a projection advertising company transformed an abandoned building in London to launch the development of its new apartment complex.

"Another Beautiful Place for Beautiful People"

“Another Beautiful Place for Beautiful People”

Hoarding/Location Highlighting/Message Awareness

Some business owners utilize open space to raise awareness about the company, spread its message, or highlight its location.

Below, an Ireland-based electric company has revitalized a neighborhood in Dublin, branding it with an “electric culture”.

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Reverse Graffiti

In London, blank walls have acted as a canvas for commercial artist Moose. In contrast to the traditional form of graffiti, the artist removes grime with soap and water to expose beautiful pieces of art while advertising the GreenWorks company.

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These marketing opportunities are of but few to a creative mind. Have you seen abandoned spaces utilized in a unique way? Let us know in the comments section!

To our readers, thank you for following us this semester on our journey through urban exploration. May your adventurous spirits ever wander. Cheers!

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The Virginia Renaissance Faire

To add even more adventure to our blog, this time we went a little far from our designated area; we went to the Virginia’s Abandoned Renaissance Faire.

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It is located Route 3, Fredericksburg, and VA US. Its location is also known as “Sherwood Forest” as the locals call it. The now abandoned Renaissance Faire was once one of the most successful renaissance fairs and people really liked it.

The land of Virginia Renaissance Faire was once owned by George Washington’s Mother, Mary Ball Washington, at the time where the Washingtons owned more than half of the DC!!

How it all started:

Renaissance Entertainment Corp purchased the land for 3 million dollars and started the faire. It started operation in 1996. And it attracted a lot of people and was very successful at the beginning. Here was how it looked like from the period 1996 – 1999:

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The Faire is not your typical costumed entertainers and fairgoers or English accent; it is much more than that. It has several tents, commercial and non-commercial booths and wide array of activities, all presented in order to “relive the 16th century” and feel the old era’s atmosphere/ environment. Among the several activities that were presented are: archery, dancing, live music, dancing, acrobats, a magic show and a puppet show for the children. As for the adults there were a vast selection of liquor, non-alcoholic drinks and food.

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After becoming one of the most successful renaissances, and a huge attraction for people to visit, it became abandoned ever since 1999. For example, they made front-page news in the paper city once they opened.

Back then, they reported their mission to be: “to provide the highest quality interactive, educational, entertainment ensuring all participants (patrons, cast, crew) not only to have fun but also to come away from each event with increased knowledge”.

However, this is not the case now.  Now it is an abandoned, neglected and deserted place.

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At first, when you arrive, you’ll find a forsaken, spooky ship sitting on trench, in the front of the area. There are several towers that are scattered all over the place, a bar with built in barrels, and a jousting arena. There is an old, decaying couch thrown between the towers.

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Also, it can be assumed that there was someone living there, because remains of a home was found (for example, a bed and sink and a mattress)

Of course, there is graffiti and vandalism everywhere.

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What actually happened after 1996?

After the first year and all the hype, the sales started declining, and it didn’t achieve the audience that the company aspired to achieve on a regular basis. Compared to the other faires, the Virginia Renaissance Faire had a lower audience volume; therefore they had low-ticket sales.

Furthermore, it was often closed because of inclement weather, which lowered ticket sales even more.

The Renaissance Entertainment Corporation was losing money, and according to the publishing of its financial statements, its biggest losses were at the Virginia Renaissance Faire.

Therefore, they decided to close the Faire in 1999.

The Faire moved to another location, which the company thought would be better than Fredericksburg; they moved to a place near Lake Anna State Park.

It re-opened in Spring 2001, and it’s been running each year ever since.

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Since the relocation, it attracted more than 10,000 visitors. This is a good rise since the previous location, however, compared to other fairs, it still has a low amount of audience. For instance, the Texas Faire has more than half a million audience.

Furthermore, regarding the older location in Fredericksburg, it was sold to a company called Best Medical International of Springfield for 1.3 million.

Nevertheless, it was never used as the remains of the faire are still there.

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The Rosewood Center

The Rosewood Center, located in Owings Mills, Maryland, was established in 1888 as the Asylum and Training School for the Feeble-Minded. From 1912 to 1961 it evolved into the Rosewood State Training School and in 1969 became merely the Rosewood Center. It became abandoned in 2009.

The Center began life as a special school for children between the ages of 7 and 17 but was woefully underfunded and at over-capacity. The school’s mandate was “the receiving, care, and education of all idiotic, imbecilic, and feeble-minded persons.” Boys were taught how to farm, garden, and do carpentry whilst girls were taught sewing, washing, milking, horticulture, and “domestic service.” The school was to be self-sufficient, where all the food is is grown or raised on the premises by the boys and the clothes and table linen woven by the girls. These children were also used to construct new buildings and expand the location in 1892 and 1900. The farms operated constantly until 1960.

The school suffered from even higher over-capacity when Maryland mandated all mentally ill patients at country almshouses be transferred to state institutions. The school unsuccessfully tried to expand to accommodate non-white students and epileptics. At its height in 1968, the school houses 2,700 patients.

By 1943 the school changed from housing and teaching children to accommodating physically handicapped individuals of all ages and interning people for life. By 1950 the school changed its mandate from caring and nurturing the infirm to simply housing them away from society.  The conditions at the Center sharply deteriorated from constant over-crowding and a lack of staff. In 1949, the Baltimore Sun described the Center as “Maryland’s Shame.” Thankfully by 1960 the Center’s population dropped as the focus of institutionalization shifted to rehabilitation of patients. Despite this, in 1981, the US Justice Department declared that residents at Rosewood “failed to receive minimally adequate care” and report of malpractice, neglect, and abuse were rampant. In 1989 the Center was condemned and new facilities were built across the field from the old. These new facilities housed over half of Maryland’s disabled until they, too, were closed in 2009 for good.

Because of numerous cases of arson the premises are actively patrolled by security. Be cautious if you visit as our friends got fined $50 for trespassing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Aqueduct Bridge: What Remains

Georgetown: a charmingly historic, brick laden neighborhood contrasted with a pepper of contemporary retailers, restaurants, and bars. On any given day, you’ll find yourself shoulder-to-shoulder on its amber tinged sidewalks with visitors and locals alike. But if you dare to venture past the commercialized pull of M Street, you can still catch a glimpse of Georgetown’s humble beginnings as a central shipping hub and one of its key participants: The Aqueduct Bridge.

 

The surviving structure of the Aqueduct Bridge.

The surviving structure of the Aqueduct Bridge.

 

When the Chesapeake Canal was engineered in the 1820s, its developers had originally planned for the canal to span the expanse of the Midwest to the Ohio Valley, which lent a promising trade opportunity for Georgetown. Across the Potomac, Alexandria merchants insisted on a share of the commerce; this urging gave rise to the construction of the Aqueduct Bridge. Cargo-carrying boats would reach Georgetown via canal, and then be transported to Alexandria by way of the bridge.

 

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The Aqueduct Bridge, circa 1865

 

However, development of the Canal took longer than expected, and plans for further expansion were halted not far from Georgetown. Subsequently, demand for the Aqueduct Bridge, especially after the construction of its successor, the Key Bridge, was abysmal. After 80 years of sporadic use, the bridge was finally demolished. It is now survived by its solitary jutting remains overlooking the Potomac.

 

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A walk beyond 33rd and M will lead you to Georgetown’s “no-man’s land” (yes, the neighborhood does in fact exist beyond the confines of the boundary line that is Georgetown Cupcakes). Continue on 33rd Street towards the waterfront to intersect Capital Crescent Trail, a somewhat obscure off-road trail stretching from Georgetown to Silver Spring, Maryland. Follow the trail to the right for about a third of a mile and a set of stairs will mark your arrival to the bridge remains.

 

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The remaining abutment currently stands as an impromptu riverside park, its concrete structure wholly claimed by a capricious display of graffiti. A site that once bridged two trading towns now bridges a gap of an entirely different kind: one between friends, lovers, and strangers alike.

 

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The Aqueduct Bridge (or rather its remains) as it stands today.

 

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I visited the Aqueduct Bridge on a Tuesday afternoon. A middle aged man, whom I later came to know as Matthew, was perched precariously close to the edge of the abutment, occasionally glancing at the water and scribbling in a journal as thick as one of my textbooks. We chatted briefly before I asked if he frequented this particular area often. He replied:

How couldn’t you? Best view of the Potomac I’ve ever seen.. hell I’ve been here 30 years. I come here a couple days a week to write but mostly just come to watch the world go by. The people change. There’s new graffiti every time I come back. But the spot? The Potomac? Always here, man.

When I inquired about the nature of other visitors to the bridge remains, Matthew told me:

Yeah this place definitely has some regulars. The good ones, though, are the ones that see it the first time, you know? You can always tell the first timers… Georgetown’s got some uppity folks. This place cuts through the bullsh*t.

Eloquently stated. Can’t help but agree with you there, Matthew.

 

 

 

The Abandoned Embassy of Pakistan

A popular perk for residents of DC is trick-or-treating up Embassy Row, primarily located along Massachusetts Avenue in the Northwest Quadrant. Juxtaposed in this neighborhood is an eclectic mix of modern embassies influenced by the architectural styles of their home nations and Victorian-era residences housing embassies with smaller diplomatic presences. Many of these historic buildings were the residences of millionaires, influential artists, and important government officials — including several future and former Presidents during the early 20th century. A majority of their original occupants were driven out during the Great Depression, leading to many embassies buying up the properties. Built during a construction boom after Congress’ expansion of Washington in 1893, these buildings feature many architectural styles of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

But standing in the middle of gorgeous Colonial Revivalism and Beaux Arts properties lies this decrepit looking building:

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That is the former Embassy of Pakistan, located in 2201 R St, NW. These properties frequently change hands as foreign nations increase their diplomatic presence in the United States and move on to larger buildings. The Pakistanis moved to a beautiful French Classicism building at 2315 Massachusetts Avenue:

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And ultimately created their own purpose-built embassy at 3517 International Court:

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Influenced by the cultural flourishes of their home country like the UNESCO World Heritage Site Naulakha Pavilion:

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But back to this:

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This building, employing a Renaissance Revival style, was built in 1906 by John McGregor and designed by George Oakley Totten, Jr. who was renown for building many of Dupont and Embassy Row’s historic buildings. It was known as the Gardner Frederick Williams House, named for the mining engineer and author who laid the technical foundations for the De Beers diamond mining cartel operations in South Africa. Along with Williams, the house’s other famous occupants include Representative Ira Clifton Copley, Lieutenant Colonel Stephen L. H. Slocum (a military attache to Britain during World War I), and Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau, Jr. The building is a contributing property to the Sheridan-Kalorama Historic District and is part of a listing on the National Register of Historic Places since 1989.

The building was initially abandoned in 2009 for renovations, still under the Pakistani government’s possession, but work has been slow to almost nonexistent. Adjacent to this run-down building are the comparatively affluent embassies of Guatemala, Armenia, Cyprus, Niger, and the Dominican Republic. In front of the abandoned embassy is the Brazilian Aeronautical Commission. Check out the Google Street View of the intersection of 22nd and R Streets (the images were taken in 2008, pre-abandonment).

So the next time you go trick-or-treating at Embassy Row be sure to check out an abandoned embassy along the way. And particularly adventurous souls may want to also check out the building’s interior (here are some blueprints):

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McMillan Park: New Development

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After the years of abandoning McMillan Park, recently, starting from 2006, the District Government asked Vision McMillan Partners (VMP) to propose a plan to develop the site. The plan that VMP brought up was the mix of uses: housing, shopping, offices, the Washington Hospital Center, and to get rid of 19 of the 20 underground water purification cells. Because the site was originally a park, they included some portion of maintaining the park. Those portions were, 6.25 acres on the southern end of the site, a 1-acre healing garden on the north end, and an acre of green space over a preserved cell at the north end.

 

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However, VMP’s propose of mixed uses of McMillan Park met oppositions of the surrounding community. According to the recent survey, 85% of the community wanted any development to include at least 50% of the park, an open space. A revised plan was to remain 50% of park space and to create large community recreation center.

 

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2012 -2013

During the summer of 2012, Bloomingdale and LeDroit Park experienced the flooding, and DC came up with another plan. DC Water made plans to use parts of the site to store storm water, and to demolish number of cells to create a sewer tunnel under First Street, NW to manage water system better.

So, you might want to visit McMillan Park, full of Washington DC history, before the renovation.

McMillan Park

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The McMillan Park Reservoir Sand Filtration Site is a 25-acre Olmsted park bounded by North Capitol Street, NW; Michigan Avenue, NW; First Street, NW and Channing Street, NW.

 

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McMillan Park Reservoir Sand Filtration Site was first operated in 1905 until 1986, when US Army Corps of Engineers built and operated new water filtration system on the McMillan Reservoir ground. It was the first water treatment plant in Washington DC. When the sand filtration site was first developed, it was innovative system of water purification, which many people needed. This was a system that used sand to purify water instead of using chemicals. Sand using water-purifying system was a slow sand filtration system that reduced many communicable diseases and spread of typhoid.

 

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Why named McMillan

The park is name after Senator James McMillan to memorialize his work on the Improvement of the Park System and his effort in developing the city.

How park created

The plan of McMillan Park was the result of United States Senate Park Commission. Many people, not only including Senators and Congressman, but also people involved in City Beautiful Movement, architect, planners, and artists, joined to create the park.

The site has been described as …

“An imaginative combination of landscaped park, with promenades, sculpture, curving carriage drives, careful grading and the placement of trees planned and personally supervised by Olmsted.”

 

McMillan sand filtration site to help relieve flooding

 

McMillan Park was a place that helped people escape from urban life. The space was at the hilltop, forming “emerald necklace” park in the city. The underground of the park was the Sand Filtration Site, and the ground was the park for people to rest and enjoy. A pink granite fountain was placed at the corner of First and Channing Street, NW. This fountain is removed now, but the original fountain’s statue is visible inside the First Street, NW gates of the reservoir facility. However, it is not open to the public.

In the beginning of World War II, to protect the city’s water supply from enemy’s usage. Most parts of the fountain were removed and even the stone benches were removed.

 

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Until 1986, The Army corps of Engineers used the facility, and when they created a new water filtration facility, they decided to sell the site to the District. The District of Columbia Government purchased from the federal government for $9.3 million to develop the land. However, since the land was purchase, the property has remained unused and closed to the public.

The Washington Coliseum After the Beatles: Owners Decide to “Let It Be”

Our last post chronicled the Beatles’ 1964 arrival to the U.S.

First stop on the money-making-train: The Washington Coliseum. The Beatles went on to achieve record breaking success, but did the venue that hosted them garner as much notoriety as the Fab Four themselves?

What’s Happened Since: A Brief (But Far From Boring) History

1965: Bob Dylan plays the Washington Coliseum. The concert marked one of the first times Dylan “plugged in” and went full electric, straying from his usual acoustic set. A photo from the concert was later used as the cover for Dylan’s Greatest Hits album.

Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits Album. Photo take by at Washington Coliseum.

Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits Album. November 28, 1965, the Washington Coliseum. Photo credit: Rowland Scherman

1967: The Temptations play the Washington Coliseum. Rock concerts were banned at the arena after a riot broke out, leaving 5 injured and 6 arrested. Yes, a riot. At a Temptations concert. We’ll assume they didn’t always attract such a rowdy crowd.

1969: Banned concerts didn’t leave many opportunities for the owners of the venue, so in 1969 the Washington Coliseum hosted the Washington Caps, a California native basketball team relocated to the D.C. area. Unfortunately, the Caps were still classified as a Western Division team, and travel forced them to play most of their games anywhere but the Washington Coliseum.

Is anyone else noticing a trend for this poor building?

1971: The Washington Coliseum finally gets some bodies to fill its venue!                                      …As a prison. The building served as a giant temporary holding cell for 1,200 protesters of the Vietnam war.

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Probably not the crowd the owners had hoped for.

After its stint as a temporary prison, the Washington Coliseum sat virtually vacant. The owners must have taken a page from the Beatles’ playbook, because they sure “let it be”. The building didn’t see much action until more than 20 years later.

1994: It can’t get worse right? Wrong. Because what’s worse than a former rockstar-hosting-venue being repurposed into a protester holding cell? Being repurposed into a trash transfer station. Glamorous.

2003: Ten years pass and the waste management company applies to demolish the Washington Coliseum. But to put a wrecking ball to the Washington Coliseum is to essentially spit in the face of music, so the D.C. Preservation League places the venue on D.C.’s  “Most Endangered Places” of the year.

2007: Fighting the man paid off! (The Beatles would be so proud.) The Washington Coliseum is added to the National Register of Historic Places.

It seems that the Washington Coliseum followed the same trajectory as the Beatles, burning bright on limited time. The owners weren’t pals with Yoko Ono were they….

But this story ending is a happy one. In 2013, Douglas Development acquired the Washington Coliseum in hopes of restoring its historic structure into a mixed-use property with retail and office spaces. Stay tuned for updates!

Xoxox,

Julia

The Washington Coliseum: The Day Beatlemania Invaded America

A 5 minute walk from the NoMa – Gallaudet U metro station will lead you to an unassuming brick building in an obscure area of D.C.’s NoMa neighborhood. However, unknown to most visitors that walk past (unless your knowledge of oldies band history is impeccable), this year marked the 50th anniversary of an event that altered American pop music history as we know it: the Beatles’ first U.S. concert.

What Is It: The Washington Coliseum, formerly known as the Uline Arena

Where Is It: 1140 3rd Street NE, Washington, DC 20002

The Washington Coliseum today

The Washington Coliseum today.

What Happened Here: We’ll assume you haven’t lived under a rock for the past 60 years and have atleast the most basic knowledge of the British pop band that ruled the music world for a couple of decades. The “four lads from Liverpool”  became immensely popular in England in the early 1960s. The Beatles were the first British band to permeate the American music scene, bringing their iconic sound (and panty dropping accents) into living rooms throughout America. The Beatles’ were met with fan pandemonium unparalleled by previous bands; a typical band outing was surrounded by unbearably high-pitched screams, and female fans regularly fainted from excitement.

Fans "greet" the Beatles as they arrive to D.C. by train.

Beatlemania in full effect as the Beatles arrive to D.C. by train.

Yes, you read that right, the Beatles packed such a punch that they caused mass fainting. We have that effect on people too.

The brand new 8,000 seat venue sold out within days, without having hosted a single major event to its name. Tickets were sold for $4. Oh, the days before TicketMaster and service fees.

Ticket for the Beatles February 11, 1964 sold out concert

Ticket for the Beatles February 11, 1964 sold out concert

The Beatles took the stage at 8:31 P.M. on February 11, 1964.

The Sold Out Uline Arena, February 11, 1964

The Sold Out Uline Arena, February 11, 1964

The band played a 12 song setlist, opening their U.S. debut with “Roll Over Beethoven”. In regards to the song choice, Paul McCartney, arguably a fan favorite (and arguably still kicking in the land of the living), said:

Opening with “Roll Over Beethoven” wasn’t a statement. Every time we did shows, we did the same as I do now: You just feel the climate; you put your finger in the air and whichever side goes cold is the way the wind’s blowin’. We didn’t plan those things. It was just: “Let’s start with George doing ‘Roll Over Beethoven.’ It’s rockin’.” In retrospect, I should be telling [that] it was a calculated move to show the world of classical music that it was time they rolled over and made way for the delightful young sound that’s going to take over.

They. Didn’t. Even. Plan. An. Opener.

In today’s era of autotune and infamously terrible lip-synching, such a thing is unheard of. We can’t decide if the Beatles’ method was an act of naivety or a stroke of genius. It doesn’t really sound like they know, either. True to form back home in the land of the Brits, fan hysteria ensued. Albert Mayles, a documentary filmmaker and concert attendee, described the anarchy:

 I never was a screamer. It was all about the music for me. The concert started with some warm-up groups, and I was relieved because I had heard about the screaming that went on in England. And I thought: Nobody’s screaming. This is going to be nice; we’re going to be able to hear them. (Laughs.) When they started playing, you couldn’t hear a thing. It was unbelievably loud, like white noise. I remember the policeman near me stuck bullets in his ears.

The Beatles play their first U.S. concert to the sold out Uline Arena.

The Beatles play their first U.S. concert to the sold out Uline Arena.

Watch video footage of the concert here:

Safe to say it was a successful U.S. introduction, no?

Want to find out what’s happened to the Uline Arena post Beatles era? Stay tuned for Thursdays post!

Peace, Love & Rock ‘n Roll,

Julia