W. C. Handy Theatre

2353 Park Avenue,
Memphis, TN 38114

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vastor on December 8, 2012 at 5:21 am

A photo has been posted taken 12/8/12

vastor on December 8, 2012 at 5:18 am

The W C Handy Theatre, of which Handy himself was very proud, is coming down. All that is left today, 12/8/12, is the sign and entry. To their credit, some years ago, the Orange Mound Community organization looked at rehabbing it for a community center. It was too dilapidated and unsuited to their needs so they built a completely new structure. The brick walls of the auditorium have been crumbling for months and I just saw the last vestiges this morning. It was built as an eastern venue for the stage shows so popular on Beale St. and was built with a stage and booth equipped for small stage shows as well as movies. This theater was built for Memphis' black community by the Cullins family in partnership with Kemmons Wilson. Handy attended the gala opening. The interior was not ornate but very well equipped and was a source of pride for the neighborhood for many years, finishing its useful years as a dance club. It has been boarded up for perhaps 20 years or more. The graphic by the entrance could be interpreted as a phoenix or a fighting cock. It did not prove prophetic.

TLSLOEWS on July 18, 2011 at 11:23 am

Thanks Will, I also had trouble getting on C.T. on my old laptop after the upgrade,I would still get the e-mails but when i clicked on them my computer would not read them said it needed an upgrade,I finally got back on using my wifes new computer.You may have gotten unsubsribed by clicking the wrong place were you click to suscribe to a theatre has changed,under it it says to unsubsribe to all pages.I almost did that my self.You can also remove any of your comments now if you wish.Good to see you back on C.T.

Will Dunklin
Will Dunklin on July 17, 2011 at 8:28 pm

TLSLOEWS, your patience is admirable. BTW it’s taken me forever to get restablished on CT. The new format looks great, but I got unsubscibed from EVERY page I was watching. I thought everyone had given up and gone home.

TLSLOEWS on August 26, 2010 at 1:56 pm

I know Mike,some folks get up tight over the littlest thing.See you at the movies.

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on August 17, 2010 at 3:05 pm

tlsloews.You and I get more folks upset than anyone else.And i don’t even try to do it.LOL.Theatre Dawg.

TLSLOEWS on August 17, 2010 at 11:45 am

Sorry Bob, just a human error!But thanks for bringing it to my attention.Have a great day.

Ret. AKC (NAC) CCC Bob Jensen, Manteno, Illinois
Ret. AKC (NAC) CCC Bob Jensen, Manteno, Illinois on August 17, 2010 at 11:25 am

tisloews; GOOD GRIEF, pay attention brfore you comment! The bar photo is from 1983. Look at the photo above which is from 2008!

TLSLOEWS on August 17, 2010 at 10:49 am

Sad looking photos of the W.C. Handy Theatre,at least it is being used as a bar now.

TPOM on December 9, 2006 at 7:02 am

Hello Theatre Connoisseurs!
I represent a small group of “next generation” children who are now coming home to take care of parents and grandparents who have called Orange Mound home for all of their lives.
As we settle in here, we are trying to help revitalize an area that has a lot of history and potential for rebirth.
The W.C. Handy Theatre is currently for sale and would be absolutely wonderful if it could be “brought back”. Do any of you know if there are channels for help (financial and otherwise) to save an historical site?? If you tell me it is possible and lead me in a good direction, I am vested in this area and will follow it through to the end. If you tell me that it’s not possible, however tragic that would be, I’ll follow your lead.
Thank you!
(Taking Pride in Orange Mound :)

Will Dunklin
Will Dunklin on October 25, 2006 at 1:02 pm

This is something of a tangent, but the man, W. C. Handy, lived and worked in Memphis during the early 1900’s. There is an interesting article at Wikipedia


that gives a good outline of his life. A statue of Handy stands on Beale Street near Fourth, placed there long after the old Handy theatre had been abandonded. A performance space named after him seems a much more fitting tribute than a statue, though I doubt the Orpheum, which stands at Main and Beale, will be renamed any time soon. It seems doubtful the theatre in Orange Mound will be saved.

And to finish off the digression, Beale Street seems to have become Beale “Street” because of W.C. Handy’s tune Beale Street Blues. Typically, Memphis' East/West thoroughfares are “Avenues” and supposedly, the name Beale Avenue was changed due to the popularity of the song.

JackCoursey on February 1, 2006 at 3:00 pm

Here is a photo from January 2006 of the theatre.

Backseater on October 19, 2005 at 3:45 am

That sounds about right. The Handy was on the South side of Park Avenue just East of Airways, which is a Southward extension of East Parkway. Mapquest shows the address to be right where I remember it.
Mapquest also confirms 3475 Central Avenue (see the earlier posting on the Handy Cultural Renaissance Theater) to be just East of Highland, also as I suspected. Lots of retreaded old mansions in that area.

JackCoursey on October 17, 2005 at 3:00 pm

I have a listing for a Handy Theatre on 2353 Park Ave. Think these two are one of the same?

Backseater on October 16, 2005 at 5:00 pm

In the unfortunate era of segregation, African-American theaters in the South were sometimes named after well-known African-Americans such as W.C. Handy. That way, someone reading the newspaper ads would realize that it was an African-American theater and either go or not go, as appropriate in the social context of the times—without having to actually say anything. Another example was the Carver theater in Birmingham, Alabama (q.v.)

Backseater on March 20, 2005 at 7:27 pm

If I remember correctly, the Handy was on the South side of Park avenue just East of East Parkway in the area known as Orange Mound near the Fairgrounds and Libertyland amusement park (which Elvis would occasionally rent after hours). Central avenue is considerably to the north of there. Don’t have a Memphis map handy, but I once lived at 3549 Mynders avenue near Memphis State University just East of Highland, so 3475 Central should be just West of Highland, probably in an old mansion. That’s a good long way from Orange Mound.

JackCoursey on March 7, 2005 at 8:03 pm

There is a W C Handy Cultural Renaissance Theater at 3475 Central Ave. Is this the same place?

Backseater on October 17, 2004 at 10:13 pm

Never went there but drove by many times from 1973-1982. Occasionally it would be rejuvenated as a night club or something similar, but never seemed to last very long. Too bad.