Theatre Architecture Archives: Richmond’s Altria Theatre
THS Theatre Architecture Archives celebrates Richmond’s historic Altria Theatre.
Historian Nicole Kappatos wrote a great piece about the Altria Theatre for the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
The Mosque, today the Altria Theater, was built in 1927. The immense project totaled $1.75 million. It was built by the Acca Temple as a public and private entertainment space. Financial problems for the Mosque began when the stock market plummeted shortly after its completion and the building became property of an out-of-state insurance company that held the mortgage. In 1940, the city of Richmond purchased the building for $200,000 and in the 1970s, restorations slowly but surely began.
The 3,565 seat theatre was designed in an Egyptian style by Marcellus Wright Sr., Charles Custer Robinson, and Charles M. Robinson. Original plans included four lounges, six lobbies, 18 dressing rooms, 42 hotel rooms, a gymnasium, locker rooms, a pool, a three-lane bowling alley, offices and a restaurant called “The Mosque Grill” in addition to the theater.
In January 1975, Times-Dispatch reporter, Ted Rohrlich, investigated the Mosque from the “top…to the bottom.” Rohrlich uncovered the many hidden uses of the Mosque, beginning at the rooftop penthouse which was “once used as the staging area for lavish parties on the roof garden.”
Phil Riggan created this wonderful photo album of the Altria after the 2 and a half year, 63 million dollar renovation.
The basement features 25 columns topped with gold leaf and wainscoted walls in tans, blues and greens. There was also a gymnasium, used at the time by local police as a training academy. At one point, the police converted what was in older days a three-lane bowling alley into a pistol range. Behind the gymnasium locker room, there was a pool, twenty-five yards long.
ABOUT THEATRE HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF AMERICA: Founded by Ben Hall in 1969, the Theatre Historical Society of America (THS) celebrates, documents and promotes the architectural, cultural and social relevance of America’s historic theatres. Through its preservation of the collections in the American Theatre Architecture Archive, its signature publication Marquee™ and Conclave Theatre Tour, THS increases awareness, appreciation and scholarly study of America’s theatres.
Learn more about historic theatres on our website at historictheatres.org