Monday, August 22, 2011

The Buchanan Theatre

Placed on the National Register of Historic Places by the United States Department of the Interior, the Buchanan Theatre has been recognized as Botetourt County's oldest standing theatre. The theatre first opened as A.E. McCurdy's Open Air Theatre. McCurdy's was purchased in 1914 by Elmer Shank. Shank and his family cut all of the lumber themselves and completed construction of the current theatre building in 1919.

Old photographs of the property indicate that in its early days the theatre was known as the Star Theatre. The exterior of the building had "Mouse-Tooth" shingles in the front gable and a two story covered porch where the current concession stand is located just inside the front door. This two-story porch provided shelter for those waiting to enter the theatre while providing an outdoor area for those who lived above the theatre. As with theatres of the day, the facility was segregated with an exterior entry for African Americans to enter for seating in the balcony.

Eventually the Star Theatre became the Buchanan Theatre and it operated continuously until 1985. Over the years the building has been remodeled several times and what can be seen today is a mixture of the thumbprints left by each generation of owners. Notable exterior features include the Art Deco concrete details on the facade, the neon sign and freestanding ticket booth. Inside, one finds a pressed metal ceiling, knotty pine paneling and a curved wall around the concession area which features a 1950s era popcorn machine and candy counter. The stage area is in remarkable condition and the cinemascope movie screen is ready for use. The movie projectors are relatively new as well.


  1. It's wonderful that it is still standing after all those years. I wouldn't mind going to a movie in there!

  2. Never have heard of 'mouse toothed' shingles. Am I outta the loop?

  3. ha birdman, i don't know either and i googled it and came up with the same article from here, guess it's unique to the buchanan theatre lol

  4. Tanya, it's nice to see that you are getting "out there" more & more to discover the History that is around your area. An interesting article about the old Theater.

    Here in Reading there used to be 5 different movie theater's, but sadly exist no more. I can't remember their names, except just one or two. The old Astor Theater was known for many years for it's outstanding inside decor that is now in a museum. It was torn down to make room for a parking lot! The Park Theater was another one that was known for the decor inside, but is now gone to History. This was the Golden Age of the Movies back from the 60's.

    You got me on that "mouse toothed" shingle also. Has me curious.

  5. Fascinating and a lovely old building...we've got a similar one in downtown Ocala (probably not as old, though)'s been remodeled and two groups have tried to revitalize movie-going downtown but it hasn't worked and if it hasn't closed down again it will soon. Sad.

  6. I bet the interior is interesting to see too!

  7. We have a small theatre in town, but I don't believe it's very old -- maybe 1970s. It doesn't do very well, as most people likely go to Omaha to see a movie on the big screens. Too bad really.

    This is a little gem. I love how it's been cared for. :)

  8. I always enjoy seeing old buildings still being used. Wonderful piece of history.


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