Local Tourist: Sis’ Tavern / Baby Dee’s & Duke Ellington in North Brentwood

I love exploring what’s right in our own proverbial and literal backyards. An expert daydreamer, I love wondering about the story behind XYZ and err on the side of trusting that everyone/thing has a story to tell, if given the time to share. Anyhoo – I’m not particularly articulate today so not about to delve further into the hows or whys of it all, just to share that if you look up “local tourist” in Funk & Wagnalls, my picture would be there. And if you don’t know what Funk & Wagnalls is, ask a friend.  A much older one.

Earlier this year, while wandering around North Brentwood, Duke Ellington and this curious, adjacent building caught my eye. Here’s a close-up of the sign and its description:

“The building now known as Baby Dee’s Guest Club was first constructed in 1912. It was originally constructed as a grocery store in North Brentwood, the first incorporated African American community in Prince George’s County. The building came to be known as “Sis’ Tavern” during the 1950’s and 1960’s. Local residents remember when the tavern was a well known social attraction that hosted performers such as Duke Ellington and Pearl Bailey.

In 1978, Sis’ Tavern was reopened as “Baby Dee’s Guest Club,” which remained in business until approximately 1996. Owned by a local African American resident, the property was an important commercial and social fixture in North Brentwood, first as a grocery store and later as a tavern. It is still a recognizable landmark in the community.”

Turns out, Duke Ellington and Pearl Bailey, among others would stop by here after hours after performing the Howard Theatre in DC. Super cool.

Inside Sis’ Tavern in the 1950’s.

The building has been vacant for some time now. According to this informative video by Maryland Planning, the Hyattsville CDC, the Town of North Brentwood and more are working to rehabilitate the building for use by the community.

“Marie Walls, owner of ‘Sis’ Beer Garden’ from the end of
Prohibition in the early 1930s to 1969.”

Speaking of North Brentwood, if you’re a fan of history and culture but have not yet checked out the Prince George’s African American Museum & Cultural Center, you ought to do so. We’re so lucky to have a museum with its collection and direction right within walking distance. One of its current exhibits, “Footsteps from North Brentwood” is a collection of photographs, documents and memorabilia detailing the rich history of North Brentwood (including the two photographs, above).

Update 10/3/2017 – Looks like work is already underway to restore this beauty back to life! 👏

Go. Be a local tourist; there’s so much to see right outside our door.

But first: What local spots do you like to explore? Where should I explore next?  🙂


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