The Howard Theatre is one of the most notable theaters in Washington, D.C. At the time of its opening in 1910 it was considered to be largest colored one of its kind, as it mostly catered towards African Americans; however, it soon gained the nickname “Theater of the People” because during a time of segregation, the venue provided a place where music could bring people together.
Initially, Howard Theatre was founded by a white-owned group called the National Amusement Company. Both the interior and exterior were extravagantly designed; inside was a seating space of over 1,000 including orchestra and balcony seats, and outside were borrowed elements of different architectural styles such as Beaux-Arts and neoclassical.
The venue saw much change throughout the next few decades. It served as a temporary church during the Great Depression up until the 1930s. Then, in 1941 it was redesigned into the Streamline style that was popular at the time. Rock ‘n’ roll and R&B emerged in the 1950s and 1960s, bringing changes into musical styles and reflected in performances by artists such as Stevie Wonder and the Supremes. However, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s death brought riots and racial upheaval which forced Howard Theatre to close in 1970. For a brief time, the theater was reopened and closed again in 1980.
In 2006, Chip Ellis and his son, who owned Ellis Development, created the Howard Theatre Development Group LLC in order to gather necessary funds; the theater reopened in 2012. Since then, it has hosted a variety of performances with the same goal of entertaining and uniting people together in mind.