Pete Macias and the Heigh-Ho Club

Joseph Shirley “Pete” Macias (1898-1947) was a native Washingtonian who served in the Naval Reserve in World War I and became a popular local nightclub entertainer in the 1920s, both as a bandleader and a pianist. 

Pete Macias and one of his bands poses in the 1920s on Pennsylvania Avenue just east of 14th Street. Pete is the one with the baton on the far right. (Source: Library of Congress). 

Macias gained a following at multiple venues before striking out on his own with the Heigh-Ho Club, which he opened in an old mansion on the southwest corner of Connecticut Avenue and Q Street NW in 1933. Macias’s Heigh-Ho Club was a swanky, much-hyped watering hole with smooth entertainment catering to the upper crust of DC’s thriving 1930s supper club scene. Designed by local society figure Wolcott “Doggy” Waggaman, the club was up a grand marble staircase in a grand, oak-paneled space on the second floor of the old mansion. It was a “favorite of the top hat and white tie crowd,” according to the Evening Star. “The room’s small and you almost have to know a cabinet officer to get a table on Saturday nights.” 

Matchbook cover from the Heigh-Ho Club (author's collection).

The club lasted until 1939, when it apparently closed after neighbors objected to the noise. Macias, who had become the city’s best-known bandleader at the Heigh-Ho Club, continued to lead his orchestra at the Lounge Riviera, located on the rooftop of the Hotel 2400 (now the Envoy) on 16th Street NW, through the World War II years. In 1946, he took his first vacation in years but never returned to the club, succumbing to an illness at the Bethesda Naval Hospital in 1947 at age 48.

(Author's collection).

In the 1950s, the former Heigh-Ho Club space was briefly used as the 20th Century Dance Club, a meeting spot for singles to dance or learn to dance. The distinguished mansion was torn down some time after that, and now the Dupont Circle Metro entrance is on this spot.


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