Lyric Theater (Miami)
|Address||819 NW Second Avenue|
|Public transit||Historic Overtown/Lyric Theatre|
|Owner||The Black Archives|
|Architectural style||Vernacular Masonry|
|MPS||Downtown Miami MRA|
|NRHP Reference #||88002965|
|Added to NRHP||January 04, 1989|
Opening in 1913, the Lyric Theater quickly became a major entertainment center for blacks in Miami. The 400-seat theater was built, owned and operated by Geder Walker, a black man from Georgia. In 1915, The Miami News described the Lyric Theater as, "possibly the most beautiful and costly playhouse owned by Colored people in all the Southland." The Lyric Theater served as a symbol of black economic influence, as well as a social gathering place free of discrimination. It was a source of pride and culture within Overtown.
The theater anchored the district known as "Little Broadway," an area alive with hotels, restaurants and nightclubs frequented by both black and white tourists and residents. Clyde Killens, a local resident and entertainment promoter, was primarily responsible for bringing black entertainers—who could perform in the clubs on Miami Beach but not stay in the hotels—to Overtown, the Lyric Theater and "Little Broadway." Little Broadway's roster of stars was spectacular, featuring such performers as Count Basie, Sam Cooke, Aretha Franklin, Celia Cruz, B.B. King, Patti LaBelle, Ella Fitzgerald, Redd Foxx and Mary Wells.
Patterns of entertainment changed at the same time as Overtown's population and businesses began to decline in the 1960s. The Lyric Theater closed and has remained shuttered for four decades.
However, In 2007, during the Art Basel festival season, POPtv / nonradioMusic Studio Lab Project presented "AAPC+Overtown, a Snapshot of the Golden Age of American Music" with dei7 featuring Derin Young at the Lyric Theater in Overtown. This multimedia performance piece celebrated individual Overtown residents (through audio interviews and video content) and celebrated the existence of various artists who contributed to the rich cultural history of Overtown. Features included special segments highlighting Sammy Davis, Jr., music and video from various performers, including Sam and Dave, Nat King Cole and Dinah Washington as well as music from contemporary composers, including Derin Young and visual imagery from R.M. Crews who form the nucleus of the Studio-Lab Project.
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