The Hippodrome, Richmond, Virginia’s historic Jackson Ward

The Hippodrome, Richmond, Virginia’s historic Jackson Ward.

The Hippodrome opened in 1914 as a vaudeville and movie theatre.  Capacity 1,050. It is in Jackson Ward, the historical neighborhood which was the center of African American commerce and entertainment and referred to as “The Harlem of the South.”

The Hippodrome  was a stop on the Chitlin’ Circuit, places considered safe and acceptable for African Americas in the era of segregation. The Hippodrome was the cultural heart of the historic Jackson Ward – performers here included Billie Holiday, Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, Ray Charles, Nat King Cole, Louis Armstrong, Moms Mabley, James Brown, Ida Cox, Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway and countless others on its’ stage.

After a fire in 1945, the theater was renovated and remodeled in an Art Deco style of architecture.  The updated theater included new features such as air conditioning and the latest technical equipment. The elaborate reopening ceremony attracted an impressive crowd of 2,500 individuals.

Throughout its life span it went through various ownership changes and fell on tough times in the 1970s.  The current owner, Ronald Stallings, fully renovated the building in 2011 and notes that the Hippodrome was a place where African Americans gathered in good and tough times.