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.


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!



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