Thursday, October 4, 2012

Mosque, 6 North Laurel Street and Main, Richmond, VA

Capacity 4600

Built in 1926 by the Shriners as their Acca Temple Shrine.
Completed at a cost of $1.65 million, the theater boasts the largest proscenium arch stage on the East Coast. It was designed in 1925, in Moorish Revival style(5), by Marcellus Wright, Sr. in association with Charles M. Robinson and Charles Custer Robinson.  Though it opened in October of 1927 it was officially dedicated on January 9, 1928.

The building is a lavish replica of a Moslem Temple. Twin minarets and a tall arch mark the entrance while corners have small domes. Glazed terra cotta ornament is used throughout. 75,000 square feet of gold leaf went into the dome alone, and another 35,000 square feet of aluminum leaf was used.

The Auditorium decorations include Saracenic decorations and five paintings bordering the proscenium arch of the stage. Ornamental tile used in the interior was imported from Spain, Italy and Tunis, along with lush carpets, silken curtains and paintings.

Ceiling tile

Besides the auditorium, the building contains 24,300 square feet of office space, an 18,000 square foot ballroom and a 20 by 70 foot swimming pool.

Some of America’s greatest entertainers have appeared on its stage.
Through the 1930's the Mosque Theater played host to films, concerts and a plethora of entertainers and theatrical productions which included the Ziegfield Follies, Ethel Barrymore, Maude Adams, George Gershwin and Sergei Rachmaninoff, to name but a few.

In 1935 the Acca Temple was financially strapped and forfeited the mortgage on the Mosque to the New York Life Insurance Co.

In 1940 it was purchased by the city of Richmond for $200,000.00, $375,000 less than New York Life’s asking price in 1939.

In 1941 the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra performed there with a new young vocalist, Frank Sinatra.

Shirley Maclaine and her brother Warren Beatty grew up in Richmond. Shirley Maclaine danced on stage at the Mosque at four years old. Her stories are recounted in "Songlines of Richmond."

June 30, 1956 at The Mosque, photo courtesy of Jerry Osbourne
In late January of 1952, more than three years before Elvis, another Louisiana Hayride alumni had a short run there. Hank Williams, barely a month after his back surgery and assets frozen pending his divorce from his first wife was in Richmond for his first big show of the last year of his life. Horace Logan wrote, it was a total catastrophe. His back was still killing him, and he was so full of pills and booze that he couldn't remember the words to his own songs. The crowd booed and jeered at him, and a writer for the Richmond Times-Dispatch gave him a scorching review. The next night, he stormed to the microphone at Richmond's Mosque Theatre and dedicated his first song-- “Mind Your Own Business”—to a "certain lady writer that you all know." It earned him a laugh and got the crowd off his back. At least Hank still had a sense of humor.(1)

The remainder of the ‘50's saw acts at the Mosque that included Sarah Vaughan, Count Basie, Fats Domino, LaVern Baker, Clyde McPhatter, Frankie Lymon, Chuck Berry, the Everly Brothers, Buddy Holly, Paul Anka and Eddie Cochran.
Dick Dale played with Lawrence Welk!

In July of 1968 The Who performed and Pete Townshend smashed his custom colored Fender Jazzmaster guitar during the performance.

"First when I took Jimi Hendrix to check in where I had his reservation, the Jefferson Hotel, an old time fine Richmond hotel near the Mosque, they would not admit him. They took one look and said no way, and I had to take him somewhere else. You could still do that in that day. Secondly, when I went back to check on him prior to the first show, it was my impression that he was so stoned that he likely could not go on. I could not have been more mistaken. He was outstanding, both shows, just as good as you have heard he was for all these years."(3)
October 11, 1970, Springsteen's band "Steel Mill"

On March 6, 1994, 43 years after his debut there, Frank Sinatra, at 78, returned and collapsed before a packed house.  Witnesses said he collapsed about two hours after the concert began, was sitting on a stool, singing the last chorus of "My Way," when he suddenly stopped.  "In a real clear voice, he said, 'Get me a chair, ' "then he fell to the floor. When they brought a wheelchair, everybody clapped, because they didn't seem to need a stretcher."  Frank gave his final performance almost a year later, in California.

On July 31, 1994, the city of Richmond closed the building and refurbished it between 1994 and 1995. In 1995 the name was officially changed from The Mosque to Landmark Theater.[5] It is currently a very popular venue, hosting a number of big-name musical and theatrical performers each year.

Jerry performed here on
5/25/77 Grateful Dead
6/22/82 Jerry Garcia Band

1.)^Logan, Horace and Sloan, Bill, Elvis, Hank, and Me: Making Musical History on the Louisiana Hayride.
2.)^ The Ron Brandon Collection at REEL TOP 40 RADIO REPOSITORY
3.)^ Ron Brandon,
5.)^Daily Press, 1997-04-14,


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