Thursday, September 15, 2011

Back when Columbia Heights had a professional basketball team: go Palace Five Laundrymen!!!

Columbia Heights: pro sports venue. Our neighborhood used to be the home of pro basketball team called the Palace Five Laundrymen. Not the most fear-inspiring nickname, but we'll get to that.

I posted awhile ago about some cool old maps, and made a reference to the team, but I've learned a lot more recently. The team played in the American Basketball League from 1925 to 1927 and was called Palace Five because it was sponsored by Palace Laundry, which used to have a lot of locations in the area -- hence the nickname Laundrymen. One of the laundry's locations became the Adams Mill Bar (RIP) while another may have been at 14th and Harvard, if the reflection in the glass in this photo is the Urban League building.

Interestingly, Palace Laundry was owned by George Preston Marshall, the first owner of the Redskins. The team folded and/or was sold, becoming the Brooklyn Visitations. Maybe the the Laundrymen whetted Marshall's appetite for more successful pro teams? If so, Redskins fans should thank our local team. The Palace 5ive skate shop at 14th and Florida named itself after the team too.

The team played at the Arcade, a huge "amusement palace" on 14th between Irving and Park, where DCUSA is now. The place was crazy, with a 4,000 seat arena, skating rink, movie theater, 19 bowling lanes, dancing, 15 billiards tables, a soda fountain, wrestling matches, even a roller hockey team. I would go there in a second if this place still existed. Imagine if this place came back to DCUSA.

It started out as a car barn (where trolley cars go) and garage, and later added a market, then the huge arcade/movie/arena/etc. You can read a bit more about it here, and it's also mentioned on the Columbia Heights Heritage Trail. I plan to write a post about the place soon, and PoP wrote a brief one awhile ago. The building became the amusement hall in 1910 and was demolished in 1948.

So, back to hoops. I found these great shots of players on and the Library of Congress's website. The team finished 2nd and 3rd in their seasons, and in the first game they beat the Brooklyn Five 18-17. The knee pads are interesting. And I want a t-shirt of one of those logos -- anybody out there make shirts?
Funky Charleston with the ladies at the Arcade
Grody or Gerody, the team's center. Also in the top photo.
James Lemon of Central High's basketball team at the Arcade (I believe). Central became Cardozo High and Lemon later owned the Washington Senators baseball team. He sold them to Bob Short, who moved to team to Texas, where they became the Rangers.


  1. this is an awesome post! thanks for bringing this to my attention. i have a buddy who makes shirts and can ask him if he would be interested in designing something for sale at columbia heights day or something like that.

  2. Palace Five Laundrymen shirts? Shut up and take my money!

  3. I had no idea what was there before DCUSA but The Arcade looks fascinating. Any chance we can have a future blog entry discussing the history of that lot?

  4. I'll be doing one on the Arcade soon, and I did one before, that William Tecumseh Sherman used to own the land.

  5. A good idea though -- brief history of the lot.

  6. Also Andrew #1, that would be awesome.

  7. I want has a Palace Five shirt. desire. Grammar language.

  8. Any idea what colors their jerseys were? …

  9. I'd love to see what it looks like in the Arcade?


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