The Howard Theatre, which launched the careers of Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Marvin Gaye and The Supremes, will re-open in April 2012 after a $29 million renovation. The remodeled theater features a state-of-the-art acoustic system and will offer a wide-range of live entertainment. The new configuration, with black walnut walls, oak floors and Brazilian granite bars on each level, features ten foot video screens and recording capabilities allowing The Howard to retain the intimate feel of its former space. The building combines elements of Beaux Arts, Italian Renaissance and neoclassical design. The balconied interior is built with flexibility including supper club-style seating for approximately 650, which can be quickly adjusted to allow standing room for 1,100. Located at 620 T Street NW, the closest Metro station is Shaw/Howard U. A full dining menu features American cuisine with classic soul influences. Doors open two hours prior to all seated shows, with first-come, first-serve basis seating. For standing room-only shows, a streamlined menu will be offered. Opening day is on April 9, 2012, Howard Theatre Community Day. The event will feature live music performances, memorabilia displays and tours of the theatre. A memorabilia drive is currently underway, in which members of the community are donating tickets, posters, and souvenirs from the theatre’s past.
The Howard Theatre was originally built by architect J. Edward Storck for the National Amusement Company and opened on August 22, 1910. It featured vaudeville, live theatre, talent shows,and was home to two performing companies, the Lafayette Players and the Howard University Players. The theatre was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974. While The Howard Theatre inspired change, it felt the impact of a nation in flux following the 1968 riots. Eventually, the degradation of the neighborhood forced the theatre to close in 1980. In 2000, the Howard Theatre was designated an American Treasure under the “Save America’s Treasures” program. In 2006, Howard Theatre Restoration www.howardtheatre.org/home.html was formed to raise funds for the restoration and the construction of the Howard Theatre Culture and Education Center, which will house a museum, classrooms, listening library, recording studio, and offices.