Roberta Flack Honored by DAR with DC Call Box Monument
WASHINGTON — Patrons enjoying a snow day soup, sandwich and suds at Mr. Henry’s on Capitol Hill were surprised Saturday afternoon by the sudden appearance of musical great Roberta Flack. While Mr. Henry’s is often cited as the place where Flack got her start, it isn’t every day at the classic American pub that the legend shows up for lunch.
Flack was in town specifically for the dedication of a historic call box in her honor located a block away at 5th and Seward Square SE. The Constitution Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution recently adopted the callbox as a project to identify important women in American history.
D.C.’s iron call boxes were installed on streets and used to report fires or police activity in the 19th century before phones were available in private homes. Their wiring was removed long ago, but hundreds of sturdy call boxes remain all over the city, and various local organizations have used them as an opportunity for civic art and historic interpretation over the last few decades.
Honoring prominent women has been a common theme. Suffragist Alice Stokes Paul has a call box at 14th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW; Katharine Graham’s highlights her leadership at the Washington Post at 15th and L Streets NW; and Julia Ward Howe, who wrote the lyrics for “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” is memorialized at 14th and F Streets NW. But as far as The Well News could determine, Flack is currently the only living representative of the honor.
After securing the necessary permits, DAR members scraped and chipped away paint, primed and repainted the call box in a brilliant red color which was chosen by Flack herself. The members have expressed a commitment to preserving the callbox into the future.
“We hope that the Roberta Flack call box becomes beloved in the Capitol Hill community and inspires a generation of musicians to dream big,” Amanda Murphy, DAR Constitution Chapter regent, said.
Flack’s call box monument details her lifetime achievements, from her full scholarship to Howard University at age 15 to her work as a music teacher by day and jazz club performer — and eventual residency at Mr. Henry’s — by night, to her GRAMMY award-winning rise to pop stardom.
While Flack didn’t make prepared remarks at the call box dedication ceremony, she did tell attendees: “I am so grateful for your recognition. I thank you very much.”
Then she and a flock of her fans walked the short block to Mr. Henry’s to toast her full circle of historic achievements in the very same dining room where she started her rise to fame some five decades ago.
Roberta Flack’s call box features artwork by Corey Houlihan and is located at the corner of 5th and Seward Square SE in front of Capitol Hill United Methodist Church.
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