The Devil’s in the Hidden Details for Altria Theater
By: Carson Bear
The ambitious Clinton L. Williams, Potentate of the ACCA Temple, Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, conceived of the plans for a huge entertainment venue that would dominate downtown Richmond’s nightlife and become a new meeting place for his growing fraternal order in 1918. After years of hard work, the Mosque Theater (now known as Altria Theater) opened with a performance from famed opera singer Madame Ernestine Schumann-Heink on October 28, 1927.
The Mosque was designed by architects Marcellus Wright, Sr., Charles M. Robinson, and Charles Custer Robinson and originally featured a 4,600-seat theater, four lounges, six lobbies, 18 dressing rooms, 42 hotel rooms, offices, a restaurant, a gymnasium, locker rooms, a swimming pool, and even a three-lane bowling alley. When it was sold to the city of Richmond in 1940, the opulent theater lived up to its original owner’s intentions, hosting legendary performances from the likes of Elvis, Frank Sinatra, the Supremes, and Jimi Hendrix.
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