African Americans and Washington DC
Ben’s Chili Bowl, formerly a nickelodeon movie theater. Deborah Willis/AASC
Ben’s Chili Bowl was opened in 1958 at 1213 U Street NW, near to the Lincoln Theater by Ben and Virginia Ali. Actors, singers, comedians, politicians, musicians are known to have visited the restaurant along with members of the D.C. community for the "Finest Hot Dogs and Chili Served with a Touch of Class." Noted as a Washington, D.C. landmark, it is also known for its unique menu of half-smokes and milk shakes. Built in 1910, it was Washington, D. C.’s first silent movie house, the Minnehaha Theater. 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. It was converted as a pool hall by Harry Beckley, one of D.C.’s first black police detectives.