Credit: Photograph by Darrow Montgomery

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The Howard was the D.C. ballyhoo of the year, certainly as far as music venues go, but probably overall, too. The 102-year-old “people’s theatre”—the first in the nation by and for African Americans—reopened in April following a two-year restoration, which in turn followed three decades of neglect and decay. The 21st century incarnation is a potent symbol of D.C.’s economic turnaround—and, not coincidentally, of its gentrification. The Howard of 1910-1980 was an anchor for the black community that brought in popular musicians for low admission. The Howard of 2012 is the people’s theater only in the sense that it’s owned by the District; everything else about it, from its opulent interior to its smooth R&B and “old-bearded-dude rock” programming focus (as Washington City Paper characterized it in April) to its high ticket and menu prices (thanks mostly to the New York–based Blue Note Enterprises, which operates the venue), caters to a market with plenty of disposable income. Still, it has revitalized a long-blighted corner of the city, and restored to prominence, and elegance, one of our greatest civic treasures.