The Academy of Music on Main Street in Historic Downtown Lynchburg, Virginia…
The Academy, located on the west end of Main Street, opened its doors to the public on February 1, 1905. One of the finest theaters of its time it seated 1250 people. In April of 1911 the theater burned. It was redesigned and rebuilt in 1912. The second theater was much more elaborate and because the first theater had some seats with undesirable sight lines, the house was narrowed and the second balcony was moved back reducing the seating to 1050.
The Academy has never had an in house theater group. It instead hosted some of the finest traveling performers of that era. Though this list is by no means complete artists included May West, Lillian Russell, Sarah Bernhardt, Maude Adams, George M. Cohan, John Drew and Paderowski. Because of the quality of the theater and the near perfect acoustics it boasted, performing there was an honor often sought after.
As the “big screen” gained popularity, the legitimate stage lost it’s audience. By the 1930’s the Academy was converted to a movie house. There were still live performances, but the best of the best faded away. In the 1950’s the Academy was reduced to B grade movies, and finally closed its doors in 1959. The threat of demolition was avoided when in June of 1969 the Academy became the first Lynchburg structure listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Restoration of the facade was partially completed in 1975. A windstorm in 1993 collapsed part of the theater’s rear wall with its distinctive Chero Cola advertising. The theater is now undergoing a complete restoration by the Academy of Music Theatre Inc. When the Academy reopens, a large variety of entertainment will bring the public and the sounds of laughter to the Academy once more.
Image: © 2010 D L Ennis, All rights reserved
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