The Lost Theatres of LaVilla

March 23, 2016 2 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

During the formative years of Jazz and Blues in America’s late 19th and early 20th centuries, Jacksonville was a major performance venue in this part of the country. Unfortunately, not much is known by the majority of our population because much of this history resides exclusively on the black side of town during the height of the Jim Crow era. Much of this scene took place in the area downtown know as “LaVilla.” With this in mind, here's a brief a look at a few “lost theaters” of LaVilla.

Roosevelt Theatre

1949 Sanborn map illustrating the location of the Roosevelt Theatre at 818 West Ashley Street.

Opened in 1949, the Roosevelt Theatre was located at 818 West Ashley Street. Anchoring the west side of the entertainment strip that was also known as the "Great Black Way", the Roosevelt was home to one screen and had a seating capacity of 1,150. Surrounded by several retail shops facing Ashley, Madison, Church and Davis Streets, the theatre included a 24' tall entrance and balcony overlooking a 34' high stage area.

Like most of LaVilla, the Roosevelt only exists in our memories. Long demolished before the redevelopment of LaVilla during the 1990s, the site is now the location of the LaVilla School of the Arts.

The LaVilla School of the Arts was built on the former site of the Roosevelt Theatre.

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