Howard Theatre
The Howard Theatre is a historic theatre in Washington, D.C.. Opened in 1910, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1974. In its heyday, the theatre was known for catering to an African-American clientele, and played host to many of the great black musical artists of the early and mid-twentieth century. The Howard was billed as the "Theater of the People", and played host to two theatrical organizations, the Lafayette Players and the Howard University Players. The theatre was founded and owned by the National Amusement Company, a white-owned group; when built it had a capacity of more than 1,200. It was designed by J. Edward Storck . There were orchestra and balcony seats as well as eight proscenium boxes, and the interior was lavishly decorated. No less extravagant was the exterior, which combined elements of the Beaux-Arts, Italian Renaissance, and neoclassical styles; the whole was surmounted by an over-lifesized statue of Apollo playing his lyre. Andrew Thomas served as the theatre's manager during its early years, and beginning in 1922 it was leased and run by actor, producer, and enterpreneur Sherman Dudley. It was taken over in 1926 by Abe Lichtman, the white owner of a chain of movie theatres that were frequented by blacks. With the onset of the Great Depression, the building became a church for a time. In 1931, as part of the venue's return to its original purpose, Duke Ellington appeared with his band at the Howard, helping also to cement the theatre's reputation as an entertainment hotspot. This rebirth was helped along by Shep Allen, the building's new manager; in the 1930s he introduced an amateur contest that was used as a springboard to stardom by Billy Eckstine and Ella Fitzgerald. The Howard lost its original ornate facade in 1941 when it was redone in the then-fashionable Streamline style. Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his wife Eleanor would attend balls at the theatre during World War II; such balls featured performers like Danny Kaye, Abbott and Costello and Cesar Romero, among others. Also in the 1940s, Pearl Bailey made her debut at the Howard. The Howard turned into a house for rock 'n' roll and rhythm and blues during the 1950s and 1960s, and many important acts from both genres played there. Among the acts to grace the stage were Buddy Holly, Sarah Vaughn, Dinah Washington, Sammy Davis, Jr., James Brown and the Flames, Otis Redding, All Motown & Stax Recording Stars, Lena Horne and Lionel Hampton. The 1968 riots which followed the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. caused the venue a great deal of harm; these, coupled with desegregation, forced the theatre's closure in 1970. Three years later the Howard Theater Foundation was organized to reopen the Howard; it was this organization which succeeded, in 1974, in gaining the building a National Register nomination. In 1975, Redd Fox and Melba Moore were among the acts featured at the theatre's reopening. Later in the decade, numerous go-go bands played the venue. Chuck Brown and the Soul Searchers also performed numerous times at the Howard throughout the 1970s and 1980s. In 1980, the theatre closed again; at the time it was the oldest venue in the country that featured black artists. , the theater will be restored. It will be reopened in August of 2010 in time for its 100th birthday. The DC Preservation League listed the Howard as one of its Most Endangered Places in the city in 2002. The Howard Theater is currently undergoing renovations.

Building Activity

  • Kiril Pavlov
    Kiril Pavlov activity.buildings_person.create
    about 6 years ago via
  • removed a media
    about 6 years ago via