The Epicurean Eating House, owned by Mr. Beverly Snow, was the site of a riot in 1835 popularly known as the Snow Riot. Though the exact cause of the riot will probably never be known, the larger context was white working-class men's frustration over their status as workers and resentment of black competition for jobs. The clear result was the unleashing of white terror against blacks.

Beverly Snow was one of a number of black entrepreneurs who owned businesses in the downtown area. His success was evidence of the strength of Washington's free black population.

One of the sparks for the riot may have been an assault by an enslaved man against Anna Maria Thornton, wife of William Thornton, white architect of the U.S. Capitol. Snow may also have been a target because it was alleged that he spoke disrespectfully about the wives and daughters of white Navy Yard mechanics (working men). One historian suggests that rioters associated Snow with his regular patrons, the wealthy white men who wielded considerable power over the white working classes. Whatever the reason, Snow was forced to flee as an angry white mob took over and ransacked his restaurant. White mobs also attacked school houses and other structures associated with the free black population.

Prior to the 1835 riot, there had been considerable racial tension in Washington. White anxiety over abolitionist activities had grown ever since the 1831 Nat Turner Rebellion. In 1835, after Congress received a large number of petitions calling for emancipation in the District of Columbia (the only place over which Congress exercised exclusive jurisdiction), Congress had instituted a gag rule prohibiting debate on the abolition of slavery. After the Snow Riot, Washington's white City Council made existing Black Codes even more restrictive.


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