Native son Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington (1899-1974), the internationally renowned composer and musician, spent his teenage years at 1805 13th Street (1910-1914) and then at 1816 13th Street (1915-1917). Ellington was born on April 29, 1899, at 2129 Ward Place, NW, the home of his maternal grandparents. Ellington's musical interest began at home. His mother, Daisy Ellington, a native Washingtonian, played the family piano. His father, James Edward Ellington of North Carolina, played popular songs and arias. Young Edward began playing around age seven. He later attributed his professional success to his parents, his music teachers, local musicians, and the patrons of Frank Holliday's poolroom at 624 T Street.
Ellington became serious about music as a teenager, visiting local clubs, studying the musicianship of ragtime pianists, and taking formal piano lessons from neighbor Henry Grant, a music teacher at M Street School. In fact, Ellington left Armstrong High School in order to devote more time to the piano.
One of Ellington's first public concerts was held at the True Reformer Building, 1200 U Street, NW. Ellington formed “the Duke's Serenaders” band here before moving to New York in 1923. He became a hit in Harlem and launched a recording career that brought him worldwide fame. Throughout his 50-year career, Ellington returned often to Washington to perform. He frequently stayed at the Whitelaw Hotel, a black-owned apartment hotel that opened in 1919 on the same block as his teenage homes.
In addition to these addresses, Ellington lived in Northwest DC at 420 Elm Street, 1206 T Street, 1955 Third Street, and 2728 Sherman Avenue.
David Freund and Marya Annette McQuirter, Biographical Supplement and Index, Young Oxford History of African Americans Series (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997).
Harry Ploski and Ernest Kaiser, The Negro Almanac, 1971.
Mark Tucker, ed., The Duke Ellington Reader (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995).
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