Billy Simpson's House of Seafood and Steaks and its proprietor played a central role in the social and political culture of DC's African American community during the period of transition from segregation to an era of Home Rule with a largely Black political leadership.
Beginning in 1956 when he opened Billy Simpson's House of Seafood and Steaks, William W. "Billy" Simpson met a demand for a fine dining venue for Washington's Black middle and upper classes, and in doing so, created a meeting place for the African American luminaries of politics, government, and entertainment. Simpson led an informal "Round Table" of black Congressmen, journalists, and federal agency officials that met at his exclusive upstairs Ebony Table to discuss and plan the political and civil rights events of the day. He provided moral, political, and material support to the rising Black political class and to the causes of the tumultuous 1960s, including the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, the Poor People's campaign, and the anti-war movement. The Ebony Table lounge also became a favorite resort of Washington's corps of African diplomats, often not warmly welcomed by white establishments. Simpson was successful in diverse enterprises and a strong booster of African American business and self-help efforts and of economic development in predominantly Black neighborhoods. He challenged discrimination in hiring and later championed the cause of federal aid to Washington's minority businesses.
Billy Simpson's House of Seafood and Steaks moved into the building at 3815 George Ave in 1975 when proprietor Billy Simpson died and the restaurant began its demise. The two-story brick building at 3815 Georgia Ave is one of a row of four nearly identical buildings, each constructed as an apartment over a ground-floor commerical space. The development was a speculative one, constructed by builder and real estate investor Walter A. Dunigan in a short 5 1/2 months and seemingly without the assistance of a registered architect.
DC Inventory: September 25, 2008
National Register: March 17, 2009