The historical Howard Theater reopened today in in Washington, DC, with a community event and a ceremony held by the authorities of the D.C. government.
This important cultural venue has reopened after 32 years of being unused, thanks to a $29 million dollars investment coming from private and public funds (D.C. taxpayers paid $20 million dollars).
The city of Washington, DC, has recovered a historical landmark and added a new place for the performing arts in the Shaw neighborhood.
Photos by Carlos A. Quiroz
|D.C. Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, a native Washingtonian, said, "It is not going to be quite the Howard some of you and I knew when I was a kid. That was a really funky Howard. But it's going to be that and more. It's going to be a state-of-the-art 21st-century Howard." Photo and caption via ABC 7 News|
|Howard Theater reopening community event. Photo by DDOT|
VIDEO of today's community event including an interview with Malik Ellis, co-owner and developer of the new Howard Theater:
A few weeks ago, a friend was telling me about the days when he went to the Howard Theater to see James Brown's live performances with the woman he eventually married. Alfred made emphasis on the strict and neat fashion that most people followed when attending this venue.
"Howard Theater and U Street were the Black Broadway...", he said enthusiastically.
That same expression was used often today during the opening community event [see photos here posted by ABC 7]. When I arrived there, I thought the external architecture of this building was rather simple, nothing gave me a sense of a glamorous past by just looking at its exteriors.
The humble exterior design of this building doesn't really reflect its symbolism and the importance that this venue represents for the city and its people, for the musical and cultural history of the United States.
For the people, it was a great day. I heard several comments in the Metro train and buses, cafes, mostly seniors, old D.C. residents. During this event, I saw people with smiling faces, taking photos and some where standing next to a strange-looking sculpture honoring Duke Ellington, the famous D.C. jazz musician.
However, this project is not completed yet. The non-profit that supports the renovation of this venue, is planning on building the Howard Theatre Culture and Education Center which will include a "museum, recording studio, listening library, classrooms and donor lounge." A fundraising concert is planned for this week.
I couldn't get inside the theater because a robust security worker reminded me the event had ended already, even though I got there 30 minutes before closing time according to what was announced via Twitter. Hopefully I will return later to visit the interiors.
With about 800 seats, this theater will not be a space for big performances. You can see some images posted by The Washington Post while these renderings of its new design suggest this theater will be used more as a place for small public and private receptions. Today, DC-rapper Wale announced a sold-out before his inaugural performance.
By the way, I think this remodeling project was part of an attempt to bring more businesses to D.C. including a failed effort for Radio One to move its headquarters back to the District. Instead, Radio One is moving to Silver Spring.
Here are some links and videos about a place that was abandoned for too long. It's a good thing the people of D.C. has recovered it.
|Before restoration in 2010. Photo by Luis Gomez via Borderstan|
- The Howard Theater - the official website
- Howard Theater - Wikipedia
- Memories of Howard Theater - Afro newspaper
- Howard Theater restoration news - Howard Theatre Restoration, Inc. nonprofit organization
- D.C.’s Howard Theatre: What made it an essential sanctuary of black Washington?
- Howard Theatre’s rebirth comes amid neighborhood’s dying past
Revealing the Original 1910 Facade
The restoration process
Update: Watch videos of Wale's performance last night.