Capitol Hill Theatre, 645 Pennsylvania Avenue SE, Washington, DC 20003

The Washington Times, August 14, 1910:

avenue

“Tomorrow night, the first large theatrical enterprise conceived for east Washington patronage will be inaugurated. The Avenue Grand Theater, located at 645 to 649 Pennsylvania avenue southeast, will be opened and its first performances given. The theatre will offer high-class vaudeville, entirely new motion pictures, and a musical attractions.

The Avenue Grand orchestra is to be a permanent musical feature. Eight acts a week are promised for the program.”

Capitol Hill

When I first went to the Avenue Grand as a kid in the 1950s, the theatre seemed run down, a bit seedy and reeking of age. This is where I saw, for the first time, the Universal “B” monster movies including Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein.

At some point in the mid 50s, the Avenue Grand became the Capitol Hill.  After renovating the space, owner Don King opened on August 17th, 1967 with The King of Hearts. I was an usher that evening but over the next few months served as doorman, cashier, assistant manager and finally manager. Everything being a bit chaotic.

Shortly after I moved on to a theatre in Arlington, Virginia, a “for sale” sign went up on the old Avenue Grand-Capitol Hill. A fire broke out in November 1970, destroying the interior. The last remnants of the burned out theatre razed soon afterwards.

Photo of the Capitol Hill is from the Theatre Talks Collection. Please ask permission to copy and/or re-use.

Cezar Del Valle is available for theatre walks and talks in 2013.

He is the author of the Brooklyn Theatre Index, chosen 2010 Best Book of the year by the Theatre Historical Society.

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2 thoughts on “Capitol Hill Theatre, 645 Pennsylvania Avenue SE, Washington, DC 20003

  1. I attended shows at all these places. Mostly at the Academy. On Saturday afternoons I would spend a dime and get a full two or three hours of entertainment.

    • We used to go to the Avenue Grand and the Penn. Never the Academy. I remember my father telling me that they were showing, at one point, Mexican films. On the way to work at the Navy Yard, he would stop to talk Spanish with the cashier. This could be just one of my father’s stories (not necessarily the truth).

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