Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Petersburg - Then and Now - Phoenix Hall

One of Petersburg's many antebellum crown jewels was Phoenix Hall. Located on Bollingbrook Street, it replaced the theater of that street's name which burned in 1850. Phoenix Hall sometimes competed with Mechanics Hall on Sycamore Street for the city's artistic performances. The Phoenix Hall venue served many purposes. Here, traditional theater performances and political rallies dominated the stage and put people in its 700 seats. One of its many pre-Civil War events was the Virginia Democratic convention which nominated John Letcher for governor.

During the Civil War, the Petersburg Daily Express often printed notices for shows that appeared at Phoenix Hall. In the June 11, 1863 edition (shown above), Miss Katie Estelle and Mr. William Burke offered shows "The Chamber of Death" and "The Man and Tiger," respectively. Phoenix Hall hosted tableaux shows, often presented by the city's elite women, who attempted to raise funds for the companies of soldiers that were raised in Petersburg. The famed and enslaved African American pianist, Blind Tom, also presented during the Civil War.

Today, it is possible that elements of the Phoenix Theater survive in the L.A. Sheffield building (below).

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