Eaton DC’s ballroom is named after Beverly Snow, one of many Black Washingtonians that popular history has overlooked. Sheldon Scott, Eaton’s global Head of Purpose, shares Beverly Snow’s story as a symbol of Black excellence in hospitality and the violence that repressed it.
Who was Beverly Snow?
Beverly Snow was a formerly enslaved Black man who earned his freedom in Virginia in the late 1820s and moved to Washington DC, where he opened up the Epicurean Eating House at 16 Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest. It was one of the first establishments to have their menu in print, and advertised in the local newspaper. It had a renowned selection of scotch and whiskey and it promoted “clean, healthy living” through its food.
What were the Snow Riots?
A group of white mechanics formed a lynch mob and rampaged through the city, basically to lodge their protests and express their dislike of formerly enslaved African Americans who were living in the Washington DC area. The victims of this riot were members of a free Black society in the District of Columbia, 30 years before emancipation.
How did Beverly Snow relate to all this?
The Epicurean Eating House was a symbol of Black excellence. And that’s why it became a target for the lynch mob. This group of white men decided that this Black man didn’t deserve everything that he had worked for and created. So they went in, ransacked the place, and attempted to lynch Beverly Snow and his wife. They escaped and ended up resettling in Canada.
Why did you decide to name our ballroom at Eaton after Beverly Snow?
Because that narrative represents the very true and brutal history of this country. On one hand you have what Black excellence looks like—what Black ability looks like unencumbered. Because prior to that, there weren't any laws that prevented black ownership. Those laws did come into effect after the riot. And on the other hand, it shows how the United States has historically, consistently responded to Black liberation: with tremendous violence, legal, physical, capital violence. At Eaton, the building itself serves as an education tool.
Do you feel a sense of relating to Beverly Snow? Just on an individual level?
I mean, he was described as a flamboyant host and I've been accused of the same, so I'll take that.