President Theatre

1014 Pennsylvania Avenue,
Washington, DC 20003

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Located on the site one of the first theatres in Washington the Washington Theatre (1803-1820) which was designed by architect George Hadfield. It burnt down in 1820 and the only the four walls were left standing, and these were reused to build the Washington Assembly Rooms in 1822, again to the plans of George Hadfield.

It became a post office between 1841-1843, then returned to theatre use in 1856 as Carusi’s Hall, then Theater Comique. After it was remodelled in 1882, it became the Washington Theatre. In 1891 it was renamed Lyceum Theatre and in 1909 it was presenting vaudeville and movies.

It was remodelled in 1913 to the plans of architect Otto G. Simonson, and in the summer of 1914 it was renamed American Theatre. This operated as an African-American vaudeville and movie theatre, but it was a short lived venture.

In December 1919 a fire during a wrestling match resulted in damage to the upper parts of the auditorium, and in 1920 it was remodelled to the plans of architect John Zink. It re-opened in the fall of 1921 as a movie theatre known as the Capitol Theatre.

On October 15, 1922 it was renamed President Theatre and opened with the play “East is West”. Over the next few years it was known for showing controversial films. The President Theatre was purchased by the government in 1928 and in November 1928 it was equipped with Vitaphone sound equipment and screened “Abie’s Irish Rose” starring Charles ‘Buddy’ Rogers & Nancy Carroll for a 12 week run. The theatre was abandoned in 1929. It was used by the Department of Commerce for storage until it was demolished.

Contributed by Ken Roe
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