W. C. Handy Theatre

2353 Park Avenue,
Memphis, TN 38114

Unfavorite 4 people favorited this theater

Showing 23 comments

Tinseltoes
Tinseltoes on February 1, 2013 at 11:54 am

Plans for 1947 grand opening are described here: Boxoffice

vastor
vastor on December 8, 2012 at 7:21 am

A photo has been posted taken 12/8/12

vastor
vastor on December 8, 2012 at 7:18 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
TLSLOEWS on July 18, 2011 at 1:23 pm

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 10:28 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
TLSLOEWS on August 26, 2010 at 3:56 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 5:05 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
TLSLOEWS on August 17, 2010 at 1:45 pm

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 1:25 pm

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

TLSLOEWS
TLSLOEWS on August 17, 2010 at 12:49 pm

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

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on April 7, 2008 at 3:41 pm

New direct links to images described above on 10/29/05:
View link
View link
View link

Will Dunklin
Will Dunklin on December 11, 2006 at 5:06 am

TPOM please contact me directly. If you’ll click on my name below, you’ll find my e-mail address.

Best wishes

TPOM
TPOM on December 9, 2006 at 9:02 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!
TPOM
(Taking Pride in Orange Mound :)

Will Dunklin
Will Dunklin on October 25, 2006 at 3:02 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

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W_C_Handy

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
JackCoursey on February 1, 2006 at 5:00 pm

Here is a photo from January 2006 of the theatre.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on October 29, 2005 at 12:41 pm

Here are several images. In the first, at left, you can see the “milk bar,” which could also be accessed from the street without purchasing a ticket and provided extra income for the theatre. The auditorium floor had a reverse slope towards the front. The stage had three-color footlights and two rows of drops for scenery. Under the stage were dressing rooms and toilets for the performers. At the rear of the auditorium, at either side of the projection booth, were two viewing rooms for groups, parents with infants, or special guests of management.
www.i8.photobucket.com/albums/a18/Warrengwhiz/handy1.jpg
www.i8.photobucket.com/albums/a18/Warrengwhiz/handy2.jpg
www.i8.photobucket.com/albums/a18/Warrengwhiz/handy3.jpg

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on October 20, 2005 at 5:54 am

There are quite a few photos of the W.C. Handy in the 1946-47 edition of Theatre Catalog. The text says that the theatre was “specially built for the colored people of the Orange Mound district of Memphis.” The auditorium had only an orchestra floor, with the 1,058 seats divided into four sections, two wide ones at the center and two narrow ones on the sides. The Handy had full stage facilities, and was intended to present “live” shows with “famous stars” once a month and movies the rest of the time. I don’t know if that policy was ever actually followed.

Backseater
Backseater on October 19, 2005 at 5:45 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
JackCoursey on October 17, 2005 at 5:00 pm

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

Backseater
Backseater on October 16, 2005 at 7:00 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
Backseater on March 20, 2005 at 9:27 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
JackCoursey on March 7, 2005 at 10:03 pm

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

Backseater
Backseater on October 18, 2004 at 12:13 am

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.