RIOT AT THE 1023
The 1023 was one of the roughest roadhouses in DC.
The following is an excerpt from the article A BRIEF HISTORY OF WHITE PEOPLE IN SOUTHEAST published in the 10-16-1998 CITY PAPER
There was more to the local bar scene than honky-tonks. It was the rock era, and Southeast had gained a reputation as a place where both switchblades and guitars were always within reach. Local musicians recall that Anacostia taverns like the Shanty were some of the roughest places around. There were racial dimensions to some of the violence as well.
The 1023 Club, a redneck biker bar near the District line, hosted some brawls that foreshadowed the '68 riots. A squat, deep cinderblock cave built in the side of a hill, the 1023 took its name from its address on Wahler Place SE. In the mid-60's, it was a popular hangout, mostly due to its house band, LINK WRAY AND THE WRAYMEN, who performed six nights a week. The legendary guitarist and author of the seminal instrumental hit "Rumble" lived in an apartment nearby; Wray attracted crowds that included such notorious biker gangs as the Pagans, fans of the over-amped, proto-punk rock and roll. Wicked rave-ups like his most recent hit "Jack the Ripper" - which was named in honor of a dirty-dance style invented by the D.C. black kids - made a suitably menacing soundtrack for brawling.
Though Southeast had its Wild West dimensions, guns hadn't become a routine part of the landscape. The fights, mostly among bikers and rival gangs, remained of the knife and fist variety. But there was other trouble brewing. By the summer of '66, the 1023 was surrounded by apartments occupied by black residents. The club remained stubbornly white in its clientele - a policy that didn't go over well with the locals: after all, this was their neighborhood now. Several times, local blacks tried to gain admittance, only to be taken out and beaten, according to John Van Horn, bass player for the Wraymen. But a local racial consciousness on the part of the black community meant that they weren't interested in taking discrimination in their own backyard.
"One night we were playing, and a brick came crashing through the window," says Van Horn. "It barely missed Link and landed onstage." That was the last time he played the 1023 Club.
In August, things heated up, and it was payback time. After a black robbery suspect was reportedly brutalized by police, local black youths took out their frustrations on the 1023 and a nearby shopping center. The melee began as Wray and his band were roaring through a Saturday night gig. Outside the club, a white customer had his ear cut off, a scuffle ensued and some motorcycles got knocked over. Then the club's power went out, and all hell broke loose. Rayman Ellwood Brown says the band and the audience barely escaped the darkened club in a barrage of bricks and rocks. While it was no full scale riot, the incident made headlines in the August 15, 1966 edition of the Washington Evening Star, in the blunt, black-and-white reportage of the day...
"The crowd of Negroes at the shopping area was unruly, but dispersed. About 11:45 p.m., a group of youths jumped Wallace Poole, 23, of Friendly, Md., who is white, as he left the 1023 Club, hit him in the face with bricks and stabbed him twice in the left side...The crowd of youths peppered the 1023 Club with rocks, smashing in two plate glass windows. They left the shopping center shortly after, but police received a flood of calls about 1:30 a.m., saying they had returned. Witnesses told police the group numbered about 100 men and women, many of them laughing and shouting racial epithets. The youths scattered in all directions as police arrived, leaving 25 large glass display windows in pieces...Officers at the 11th Precinct said that since there was no evidence of looting at the damaged stores, apparently the youths were "just out raising hell."
(The incident spurred further violence the next day, this time targeting police at the now defunct 11th Precinct Station in Anacostia, as the Star reported on "roving gangs of Negro teenagers on a rock-throwing rampage...besieging a District Police precinct station for two hours and hurling bricks at cars and buses.")
Shortly after, the Pagans reportedly returned to the neighborhood to get revenge. It wasn't long afterward that the 1023 closed as a music venue. In the last few years, it has hosted all sorts of businesses (most recently an all-night auto body shop and convenience mart, offering "Used Tires, Smitty Deli & Variety Store", according to a hand painted sign) before shutting its doors for good. Scheduled for demolition this month (webmaster note - OCTOBER 1998), the gutted building now serves as a refuge for crack heads and whoever else crawls in for shelter.