Carpenter Theatre

600 E. Grace Street,
Richmond, VA 23219

Unfavorite 21 people favorited this theater

Showing 26 - 50 of 85 comments

morosco on August 30, 2009 at 1:25 am

A slide show from the Richmond Times Dispatch
View link

Patsy on August 29, 2009 at 3:42 pm

Congratulations on the curtain rising, once again, at the Eberson designed atmospheric Carpenter Theatre of Richmond VA. It’s music to my ears!

MPol on August 28, 2009 at 3:25 pm

What a gorgeous-looking theatre—it looks just like old times!

morosco on August 25, 2009 at 3:35 pm

The Curtain (Finally) Rises
View link

morosco on August 24, 2009 at 5:02 pm

Here’s a picture of the marquee along with 3 other Carpenter Theatre photos that were taken 8/24/09.
View link
View link
View link
View link

Ziggy on August 24, 2009 at 3:25 pm

I’m a little concerned. Compared to the photo at the top of this page, the photo at the Carpenter’s website makes the paint in the auditorium look pretty bland. Hopefully it’s just the lighting or something.

morosco on August 24, 2009 at 3:11 pm

Thalhimers originally took up ¾ of the block. The 2/4 that fronted Broad Street was demolished. The remaining ¼ at Seventh and Grace is what now houses the smaller venues and CenterStage/Symphony offices along with dressing rooms and support areas for the Carpenter Theatre.

The original wrap around corner marquee has been replicated and will have an extensive LED matrix display. The zipper marquee that originally ran vertically alongside the facade of the building has not been replicated.

GaryParks on July 30, 2009 at 11:53 pm

Does anyone have recent photos of the new marquee? I was surprised to see Chuck 1231’s link above to that 1968 American Classic Images photo which shows the original marquee and vertical still 100% intact at that late date. Yet, at some point, they were sacrificed for a product of the Let’s See How Boring We Can Make It school of marquee design sometime between then and the 1980s. I’ll venture a guess the original signage vanished during the aesthetically depraved 1970s, when if it wasn’t made of weathered wood and rusty nails, it was banished. And plain plastic was the fallback when no design whatsoever was asked for.

HowardBHaas on July 27, 2009 at 3:44 pm

I’m confused because it seems as if Thalhimers was demolished!
View link

morosco on July 27, 2009 at 2:29 pm

CenterStage complex provides several venues

By Staff Reports
Richmond Times Dispatch
Published: July 26, 2009

Carpenter Theatre
Dorothy Pauley Square
The Richmond CenterStage complex in downtown Richmond is a mixture of old and modern architectural styles.

On one side, there is the historic Carpenter Theatre, built in 1928 in a Spanish Mediterranean style. On the other is Dorothy Pauley Square, which incorporates the modern, mid-20th-century design of the former Thalhimers department store.

It was a purposeful decision to keep the architectural styles of the two buildings distinct and maintain the Thalhimers building because of its historical meaning to the Richmond community, said architect Bruce Herrmann of the Boston-based architecture firm Wilson Butler Architects.

“It was an interesting conversion from what was an old department store into a performing-arts facility,” Herrmann said. “We’ve got a number of venues in there. Hopefully, it’s going to bring a lot of life and excitement back to this part of town.” Showcase Gallery: This venue on the first level of Dorothy Pauley Square offers 1,500 square feet of gallery space for display of the visual arts. The Showcase Gallery features large windows facing Grace and Seventh streets so passers-by can see the displays from the street and be drawn into the gallery. This venue can also be used in conjunction with such local arts events as First Fridays.

Rhythm Hall: This multipurpose venue is adjacent to the Showcase Gallery. Rhythm Hall offers a variety of room configurations — from wide-open space to 150 seats. It is available for corporate use and offers a full catering kitchen. The room’s versatility lends itself to anything from a dance floor to a comedy club to a musical concert venue. Retractable glass partitions separate Rhythm Hall from Showcase Gallery. Gottwald Playhouse: An intimate performance venue with a capacity to seat up to 200 people, the playhouse features a stage in the center of the floor that can be raised or lowered depending on the type of performance. The state-of-the-art seating is also adjustable based on preference — flat on the floor or tiered. Genworth BrightLights Education Center: Education is the highlight in this 8,900-square-foot venue on the third floor of Dorothy Pauley Square. It features a large space for a classroom or rehearsal space; there is also space for three other classrooms, two of which are connected with a retractable wall to form a larger classroom. Included in the venue is the Digital Arts Learning Center — equipped for students to learn how to create podcasts, live-streaming programs and other multimedia content that can be used by teachers and students across the region.

Students will be able to use arts education to improve academic performance in other subject areas, says Jay Smith, spokesman for Richmond CenterStage. “It’s not just about bringing kids here … but taking arts education into the community, into the schools,” he said.

— Jeremy Slayton

morosco on July 27, 2009 at 8:29 am

Richmond CenterStage complex nearing completion

By Jeremy Slayton
Richmond Times Dispatch
Published: July 26, 2009
View link

Much has changed since the Carpenter Theatre opened 81 years ago in downtown Richmond, but with each step under the new high-tech marquee into the theater’s rotunda, it’s like being transported back in time.

Despite the multitude of technological advances — from fiber-optic lighting and air-conditioning vents along the floor in the theater to the state-of-the-art marquee — the structure and feel of the theater are that of 1928 and even further back in time.

Visitors who walk through the rotunda, with its original multicolored tiled floor, are ushered into a theater that has the feel of a medieval Mediterranean castle. A courtyard-like auditorium adds to the fantasy of being entertained in a long-ago era.

At the Carpenter Theatre, being restored as part of the new Richmond CenterStage performing-arts center, crews went to “great lengths to bring it back to its original form … with all the amenities and comforts of the 21st century,” said Jay Smith, spokesman for Richmond CenterStage.

Specialists went so far as to match the original paint schemes — from the intricate, ornate features to the textured walls with multiple layers of different color paints — in their efforts to preserve John Eberson’s original theater design for what started out as the Loew’s Richmond Theatre.

Through that painstaking process of restoring the structure, architect Bruce Herrmann of Wilson Butler Architects in Boston had access to original drawings and photos, including some from Richmond Times-Dispatch archives. He said to find the exact paint colors, it was treated like a mini archaeological dig — scraping through layers of paint and plaster to find about 40 original colors to reapply to the walls.

With the help of EverGreene Architectural Arts, a New York-based company that specializes in historic preservation of architectural arts, studies were done on the walls' paint inside the Carpenter Theatre to put together a palette that represented the intent of the original painters and architect.

“Over the course of 80 years, the building had been painted a number of times. Some of these [original colors] were buried under new versions of paint,” Herrmann said. “Some people are going to be surprised because it’s not going to be exactly what they remember from 10 years ago or even their childhood.”

The extensive effort paid off in what will be a dominant performing-arts presence that occupies a city block.

After eight years, the $73.5 million project on Grace Street between Sixth and Seventh streets is nearing completion. Estimates in 2007 put the project’s cost at $65 million; the city is contributing $25 million to CenterStage through former Mayor L. Douglas Wilder’s City of the Future program to reinvest in public facilities.

Private donors as well as state and federal governments are also funding the project, which was announced in early 2001 and scaled back at the insistence of Wilder in 2005.

“Our board is very pleased with the progress that is being made; now everything is taking shape inside the Carpenter Center,” said James E. Ukrop, chairman of the board for the CenterStage Foundation. “It just looks better and better every day. From what I’ve seen and what others have seen, it’s everything we hoped it would be. It’s a performing-arts center that Richmond deserves.”

Smith said construction will be complete by CenterStage’s grand opening at 8 p.m. Sept. 12, though workers last week were on scaffolds finishing projects along the theater’s stage and red-tape-blocked areas in the lobby.

The opening performances will feature the nine resident performing groups — African American Repertory Theatre, Elegba Folklore Society, Richmond Ballet, Richmond Jazz Society, Richmond Shakespeare, Richmond Symphony, School of the Performing Arts in the Richmond Community, Theatre IV/Barksdale and the Virginia Opera.

“It’s the first time all nine are performing together,” Smith said.

Walking into the theater’s spacious auditorium gives patrons a feeling of being outside. Lights in the ceiling mimic stars in the sky; enhanced technology allows for changes in intensity, giving off a twinkling-star effect. A cloud projector adds to the ambience of sitting outside in a courtyard watching a performance.

Even the architecture along the walls adds to the appearance of being outdoors. Ivy roams among the arched balconies and balustrades along the theater’s walls, as if facades of buildings in ancient Rome encircle the auditorium seating. Additional lighting behind the facade can be used to replicate the sunset when patrons first arrive.

“It’s all part of that illusion of being in this place where you’re in this environment that you’ve escaped from whatever is outside; in the theater world, it’s called the temporary suspension of disbelief,” Herrmann said. “We’re trying extend as much as we can.”

Major effort was put into making the viewing experience for patrons comfortable. The historic theater had about 2,000 seats when it closed in late 2004. Even though overall seating has decreased, a capacity of 1,800 remains. Space between rows has grown, and plush, wider seats with taller backs provide comfort.

While patrons are treated to a more comfortable experience, so are the performers. Dressing rooms were increased from 10 to 20 and can accommodate up to 200 performers. The stage is 45 feet deep, allowing for more than 100 types and depths of scenery, Smith said.

With opening day less than two months away, great care is being taken to protect the completed work. Tarps cover the seats in the theater, while strips of carpet, boards and wood protect the floor.

Former retail space that fronted Grace Street is part of the theater’s lobby, not only to provide more space for concessions and the flow of traffic but also to be more inviting for the public.

“The goal is … the show begins at the sidewalk; we want people driving by to realize there is something going on at the Carpenter and raise their curiosity level,” Herrmann said. “It’s all part of the tease to draw you in and, hopefully, bring the life back to this corner.”

joemasher on December 2, 2008 at 6:39 am

Stopped by the Carpenter yesterday—lots of constuction activity going on. The marquee has been removed, and the new stagehouse has been completed (at least from the outside). The storefronts are all bricked up.

Patsy on October 18, 2007 at 6:01 pm

HowardBHaas: Me, too!

HowardBHaas on October 15, 2007 at 9:36 pm

I’d suggest that when it reopens, name & Intro adjustments can be made at once when all is clear. I do like Carpenter Theatre rather than the longer name. I’m tired of “centers.”

HowardBHaas on October 15, 2007 at 9:17 pm

Reviewing website, looks like historic theater is called Carpenter Theatre. We will know better when it reopens.

ghamilton on August 11, 2007 at 8:40 pm

GREAT picture on front page of today’s Times-Dispatch,of interior work.Article on the project is in sec.B.

rlvjr on January 29, 2007 at 8:02 pm

Please click into the website at the top. Apperently there has been very much progress since the last entry here on May 6, 2006.

ghamilton on May 6, 2006 at 8:50 am

Looks good for the old girl now.Today’s Times-Dispatch outlines the “final"plans.45 Million in a massive refurbishing and expansion.

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on January 26, 2006 at 5:45 am

Performing Arts Center Plans Put on Hold
Email to a Friend Printer Friendly Version

For months Mayor Doug Wilder has been battling the plan for a new Performing Arts Center along Broad Street. He’s raised concerns over public funding for the project and how planners are spending the money raised. On Wednesday the group backing the plan changed their vision for the project. The CEO and leader of the Performing Arts Foundation, Brad Armstrong, announced plans to step down from his position. He also said the entire organization is scaling back. The group said it will re-focus it’s efforts on a $43 million renovation and expansion project of the Carpenter Center. The foundation say it still plans to build the multi-million dollar facility at some point in the future. Armstrong said because of the controversy between the group and the Richmond Mayor, he will no longer depend on city funds. Armstrong’s resignation takes effect December 31st. Two years ago, Richmond City Council agreed to pass a meals tax referendum, meaning food and drink bought in the city have an added tax and that money would go to building the Performing Arts Center. Does that go away? Not yet. That money was to pay for pre-construction costs for the new downtown Performing Arts Center. Using credit, the city paid the foundation more than seven million dollars for those costs but the meals tax hasn’t raised all that money back yet. So until the city can repay itself for the money it already spent, the higher meals tax will stay on the books and city spokesman Bill Farrar says that could take at least a year, maybe longer. Things could get even more complicated because the Performing Arts Foundation claims the city still owes it an additional four million dollars and change. If that’s true, your Richmond restaurant bills may stay higher until the city can repay its final bill to the Foundation.

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on January 26, 2006 at 5:42 am

2005 Richmonder Of The Year
Jan 10, 2006, 03:44 AM CST Email to a Friend Printer Friendly Version

Mayor Doug Wilder

Style Weekly selects its “Richmonder of the Year” for 2005. Mayor Doug Wilder. Style Weekly says at 74, Mayor Doug Wilder is still going strong and that he’s been a dominating force when it comes to the way Richmond spends its money, including the fight to build a multi-million dollar Performing Arts Center downtown. The project crumbled under pressure from Wilder’s public criticism. Now arts groups are working with the mayor to fix the aging Carpenter Center and plans to build a new ballpark in Shockoe Bottom never made it to first base. “We have made Richmond government more accountable and more responsible…few months ago people were calling me the ‘Oger,’…the bad guy because I dare to even question,” says Wilder. Read more about 2005’s Richmonder of the Year in this week’s issue of Style Weekly. It hits newsstands Wednesday

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on November 11, 2005 at 11:24 am

Inspection says Carpenter Center is a fire hazard
Member of arts board calls the 32 violations ‘harassment by Wilder’


Check our photos
of some of Richmond’s historic buildings.

RELATED: Richmond’s Downtown Performing-Arts Center

The Carpenter Center is a fire hazard, with sewer gas leaking inside and more violations of the state’s electrical-safety code than city inspectors could count in a two-hour examination this week.

Following the inspection, city officials issued 32 specific violations of state building and safety standards to the Virginia Performing Arts Foundation, which owns the historic theater.

“These are serious problems,” Building Commissioner Claude G. Cooper said. “There is a risk to safety; there is a fire risk with combustibles piled up and an electrical system in that condition.”

The foundation, in a battle with Mayor L. Douglas Wilder over its plans to build a $112 million performing-arts center with an expanded Carpenter Center, said it will appeal the inspection report. Wilder has said the group’s plans are unrealistic and that the city would put no more money into its project.

The city has given the foundation until Dec. 7 to fix the problems or face action by the city. Usually, that means going to court to seek an order requiring a property owner to make repairs.

After completing the inspection Monday, city officials refused to say anything about what they found except that the building was not so dangerous that the city had to ban people from going inside. The center has been closed to the public since December.

“We do property maintenance inspections all day, every day throughout the city,” Cooper said, noting that recent visits to the Miller & Rhoads building downtown and Stuart Court apartments resulted in owners undertaking needed repairs.

Martin Rust, former president of the Carpenter Center and now a member of the arts foundation board, said Carpenter Center board members were never made aware of “one single building code or safety violation” at the theater.

“Clearly this is harassment by Wilder,” Rust said. “Thirty-two violations is amazing. I’m not sure what they’re trying to accomplish. Are they trying to show it’s in good shape or bad shape?”

Joel Katz, former executive director of the Carpenter Center and now a critic of the arts foundation, said some of the problems cited by inspectors are longstanding deficiencies. For example, he said, a lot of electrical cords were used because the system was so limited.

Other problems, Katz said, evidently cropped up after the theater was closed. Inspectors cited combustible trash and debris in exit corridors, on steps and near boilers. Katz recalled those areas being clear in December when the Carpenter Center was closed and transferred to the arts foundation.

In addition to problems with fire protection, electrical wiring and plumbing, the notices listed faults with heating, air conditioning and ventilation systems, although the foundation has said it dismantled those systems this year.

The inspection seems likely to raise the temperature still more in the downtown arts-center scrap, which has pitted Wilder against powerful business leaders who have backed the project.

“You’ve got a fire trap at one end of the block and a hole at the other,” said Paul Goldman, Wilder’s senior policy adviser, referring to the excavation for the new music hall the foundation hopes to build next to the Carpenter Center.

“Obviously the Carpenter Center has been allowed to deteriorate,” Goldman said. “It’s like, if you don’t do it our way, we’ve set it up so you can’t do it any other way.”

Wilder has proposed that the foundation abandon the new music hall and focus only on renovating and expanding the Carpenter Center.

Goldman, meanwhile, has proposed that the city simply take over the Carpenter Center, make some minor repairs and reopen it without an expansion next year.

Arts groups have rejected the idea. Even though the cash-strapped city would have to pay for the building in order to take it over, and even though the theater’s value, as assessed by the city itself, is more than $6.6 million, Goldman said his option is still on the table.

“Look at Coop’s report — do you really think that building is worth $6.6 million?” he said, using the building commissioner’s nickname.

But some council members say Wilder needs to lighten up and let the foundation try to get its project back on track, dismissing Goldman’s proposal as ill-considered and costly.

“I’d like to know where the money is going to come from,” said council President G. Manoli Loupassi. “That’s why the private sector was involved to raise the money. If we just let them try to raise the money, they can raise the money.”

Contact David Ress at (804) 649-6051 or
Contact Will Jones at (804) 649-6911 or

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on November 11, 2005 at 11:10 am

Theater closing for an upgrade
Foundation’s gift gives Carpenter Center project more than enough money


The Carpenter Center for the Performing Arts is closing for renovations with more money to pay for them.

The E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation has given $1.125 million to fulfill a $2 million pledge for the historic theater, said Joel Katz, executive director of the Carpenter Center.

The Carpenter Foundation, based in Philadelphia, quietly agreed to the amount five years ago if an additional $6.5 million could be raised for improvements, Katz said.

Officials now have more than enough money to pay for the estimated $25 million project, which is a cornerstone to a planned performing arts center in downtown Richmond.

“We’re delighted the Carpenter Foundation recognizes the success of our fund-raising drive and has transmitted the prescribed amount,” Katz said before a reception last night marking the closing of the theater.

The $2 million total includes the $1.125 million sent by check this month and a $375,000 loan that won’t have to be repaid, Katz said. The Carpenter Foundation set up the loan in 1988 to put the theater on better financial footing, he said.

By forgiving the loan, “they have confirmed to the community that this is a successful, well-run organization,” he said.

The gift also includes $500,000 given two years ago to the Virginia Performing Arts Foundation, which is leading efforts to build the downtown arts center.

A representative of the Carpenter Foundation could not be reached.

The Carpenter Center, at Sixth and East Grace streets, opened in 1928 as the Richmond Loew’s movie palace and closed in 1979. It reopened as a performing arts theater in 1983 and was given its current name two years later in honor of a $1.5 million gift from the Carpenter Foundation.

The theater, a state and national historic landmark, is expected to be closed about two years. Plans call for expanding and modernizing the lobby, as well as building a stage house big enough to accommodate Broadway shows. Demolition of the current stage house is expected to begin in January or February, Katz said.

While the Carpenter Center is closed, most of its regular events and users are shifting to the Landmark Theater, which is scheduled for improvements in a second-phase of construction for the downtown arts center.

Contact Will Jones at (804) 649-6911 or

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on November 11, 2005 at 11:08 am

Is The Carpenter Center A Health Hazard?
Nov 11, 2005, 02:48 AM CST

Richmond’s Carpenter Center could be hazardous to your health. That’s according to the city’s building inspector who found more than 30 safety violations in the historic theater. The Carpenter Center closed last year for renovations. Most of the problems surround the plumbing, electrical wiring and ventilation systems. The Virginia Performing Arts Foundation owns the center and some members are questioning the timing of this report calling it “harassment.” Last week the city went public with its plans to possibly buy the center from the foundation and opening it open back up to performances. The mayor says the arts foundation should not get special treatment and must follow the city’s building codes just like everyone else. The city is giving the foundation about a month to bring the building up to code. The arts foundation plans to appeal the city’s findings.