Lincoln Theatre (Washington, D.C.)

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Lincoln Theatre
Lincoln theatre dc.jpg
Lincoln Theatre in January 2007
Lincoln Theatre (Washington, D.C.) is located in Washington, D.C.
Lincoln Theatre (Washington, D.C.)
Location 1215 U St. NW, Washington, District of Columbia
Coordinates 38°55′1″N 77°1′46″W / 38.91694°N 77.02944°W / 38.91694; -77.02944Coordinates: 38°55′1″N 77°1′46″W / 38.91694°N 77.02944°W / 38.91694; -77.02944
Area less than one acre
Built 1921
Architect Reginald W. Geare
Architectural style Classical Revival
Governing body State
NRHP Reference # 93001129[1]
Added to NRHP October 27, 1993

Lincoln Theatre is a theater in Washington, D.C., located at 1215 U Street, next to Ben's Chili Bowl. The theater, located on "Washington's Black Broadway", served the city's African American community when segregation kept them out of other venues. The Lincoln Theatre included a movie house and ballroom, and hosted jazz and big band performers such as Duke Ellington. The theater closed after the 1968 race-related riots. It was restored and reopened in 1994, and hosts a variety of performances and events. The U Street Metro station, which opened in 1991, is located across the street from Lincoln Theater.

History[edit]

Construction of the Lincoln Theatre began in the summer of 1921, and it opened in 1922.[2] The Lincoln Theatre, which showed silent film and vaudeville, served the city's African American community. The theatre was designed by Reginald Geare, in collaboration with Harry Crandall, a local theater operator.[3]

In 1927, the Lincoln Theatre was sold to A.E. Lichtman, who decided to turn it into a luxurious movie house, and added a ballroom.[4] The theatre was wired for sound in 1928.[2] The ballroom, known as Lincoln Colonnade, and the theater were known as the center of "Washington's Black Broadway".[4] Performers at Lincoln Theatre have included Duke Ellington, Pearl Bailey, Louis Armstrong, Lionel Hampton, Ella Fitzgerald, Cab Calloway, Billie Holiday, and Sarah Vaughan.[5] A television projection system was installed at Lincoln Theatre in 1952.[2] The movie house televised boxing fights on many occasions, such as the Sugar Ray Robinson-Joey Maxim bout on June 25, 1952.[2]

The Lincoln Theatre struggled financially after desegregation opened other movie theaters to African-Americans beginning in 1953.[6] In the late 1950s, the Colonnade was demolished.[6] The theater fell into disrepair after the 1968 Washington, D.C. riots.[7] In 1978, the Lincoln Theatre was divided into two theaters, and was known as the Lincoln "Twins".[8] In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the Lincoln Theater featured "All-Night Movie" shows on the weekend, attracting hundreds each weekend.[9] The Lincoln Theatre was sold to developer Jeffrey Cohen in 1983, who closed it for renovations.[9] The theater remained boarded up for many years.

Restoration[edit]

The Lincoln Theatre was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1993.[1] In 1993, the theatre was restored by the U Street Theatre Foundation, with $9 million of aid from the District of Columbia government.[10] The restoration started in 1989 by developer Jeffrey N. Cohen, who was working on a controversial $250 million redevelopment plan, "Jackson Plaza", for the Shaw/U-Street area.[11] In 1990, Cohen ran into financial difficulties and filed for bankruptcy in 1991.[12] Restoration of the theater was taken over by the District government and the foundation.[13] The restoration work was done by the design firm, Leo A. Daly.[14] The building has a brick exterior, and the interior features Victorian trim.[13]

A "sneak preview" of the renovated theater was held on September 16, 1993 for D.C. Councilmember Frank Smith, Mayor Sharon Pratt Kelly, and 1,000 attendees.[15] The theatre officially reopened on February 4, 1994 with a performance of Barry Scott's Ain't Got Long to Stay Here, which was about the life of Martin Luther King, Jr.[16] In March 1995, Lincoln Theatre hosted a play, Where Eagles Fly, written by local playwright Carole Mumin.[17] The play told the story of a local elderly woman who fought the Shaw Urban Redevelopment Project that targeted the Shaw neighborhood for demolition, and sought to preserve the neighborhood and its history.[17]

The 1,250-seat[18] theater has hosted theatrical and musical shows, leased space to community groups and for events,[19] and hosted political events such as the mayor's State of the District address.[20] Jazz performances in recent years have included Cassandra Wilson, Quincy Jones, Chuck Brown, and Wynton Marsalis.[21] In 2005, the annual Duke Ellington Jazz Festival was inaugurated and hosted performances.[22] Others that have performed at the Lincoln Theatre include Damien Rice,[23] singer Brian Stokes Mitchell,[24] and comedian Dick Gregory.[25] Lincoln Theatre has also been a venue for Filmfest DC.[26] The theater was the primary venue for the annual LGBT film festival Reel Affirmations from 1998 to 2008.

The theater has struggled financially, and has received $500,000 of aid annually for the past five years from the District government.[19] The theater director, Janice Hill, has expressed concerns that the theater may have to shut down due to lack of funds.[19] On January 11, 2007, the District government provided $200,000 to the theatre.[27] Councilmember Jim Graham also suggested adding an annual line item to the city's budget to provide the theatre with $500,000 each year.[27]

In 2011, the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities took over management.[28][29]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2010-07-09. 
  2. ^ a b c d Headley, Robert K. (1999). Motion Picture Exhibition in Washington, D.C. - Illustrated History of Parlors, Palaces, and Multiplexes in the Metropolitan Area, 1894-1997. McFarland & Company, Inc. 
  3. ^ "Greater U Street Historic District". National Park Service. Retrieved May 13, 2009. 
  4. ^ a b Savage, Beth L. (1994). African American Historic Places. Wiley. 
  5. ^ "Lincoln Theatre". Cultural Tourism DC. Archived from the original on October 5, 2007. Retrieved May 13, 2009. 
  6. ^ a b Roberts, Roxanne (February 5, 1994). "The New Jewel of U Street;Lincoln Theatre's Gala Return". The Washington Post. 
  7. ^ Becker, Ralph E. (1990). Miracle on the Potomac. Bartleby Press. 
  8. ^ McQueen, Michel (July 16, 1981). "Action!;Escaping Summer Heat & Boredom at the Movies;An Escape From Summer Doldrums". The Washington Post. 
  9. ^ a b Sargent, Edward D. (August 18, 1983). "Small Merchants Feeling Squeezed In U Street NW Redevelopment". The Washington Post. 
  10. ^ "Lost Jazz Shrines". Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved May 13, 2009. 
  11. ^ Dedman, Bill (September 7, 1990). "Shaw Group Files for Bankruptcy;Developer Cohen's Project Falters". The Washington Post. 
  12. ^ Sanchez, Rene (April 11, 1993). "Street, New Street?;Eclectic Entrepreneurs Are Bringing Signs of Long-Awaited Rebirth to Historic Black Neighborhood". The Washington Post. 
  13. ^ a b Wheeler, Linda (July 29, 1993). "Reopening Night in Sight;Restoration of Historic Lincoln Theatre Is Nearing Completion". The Washington Post. 
  14. ^ "Lincoln Theatre". Leo A. Daly. Retrieved May 13, 2009. 
  15. ^ Mills, David (September 17, 1993). "A Right Turn on U Street;Mayor & Co. Get a Sneak Peek at Renovated Lincoln Theatre". The Washington Post. 
  16. ^ Cooper, Jeanne (February 5, 1994). "Theater;A Musical Not Fit For King". The Washington Post. 
  17. ^ a b Wheeler, Linda (March 10, 1995). "A Neighborhood Takes Center Stage; Shaw Playwright Brings Troubled NW Area's Rich History to Life at the Lincoln". The Washington Post. 
  18. ^ "Lincoln Theatre". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 13, 2009. 
  19. ^ a b c Schwartzman, Paul (January 9, 2007). "Storied Stage Could Go Dark; U Street Venue on Brink of Going Broke, Director Says". The Washington Post. 
  20. ^ Weiss, Eric (March 24, 2005). "Of Donors and Dirty Looks". The Washington Post. 
  21. ^ "U-Street". Duke Ellington Jazz Festival. Archived from the original on February 20, 2009. Retrieved May 13, 2009. 
  22. ^ "Duke Ellington Jazz Festival". Retrieved May 13, 2009. 
  23. ^ "Music". The Washington Post. December 18, =2006.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  24. ^ "Mitchell-to-Bring-Love-Life-to-DCs-Lincoln-Theater-in-November". Retrieved September 19, 2005. 
  25. ^ Fears, Darryl (December 2, 2006). "The Word That Is the Very Definition of Unspeakable; Black Entertainer Endorses Moratorium on Slur". The Washington Post. 
  26. ^ "At Festival, an Inside Look at 'Insider'". The Washington Post. April 8, 2005. 
  27. ^ a b Alexander, Keith L. (January 12, 2007). "City's Grant of $200,000 a 'Good Band-Aid,' Official Says". The Washington Post. 
  28. ^ Righthand, Jess; Hahn, Fritz (December 21, 2011). "New horizons for Lincoln Theatre, new digs for HR-57". The Washington Post. 
  29. ^ http://dcist.com/2011/12/dc_officials_get_going_on_lincoln_t.php

External links[edit]