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Lincoln Theatre

2300 S. Central Ave.  Los Angeles, CA 90011 | map |

Opened: October 7, 1927.  The Lincoln was the largest theatre to be constructed along Central, then the hub of the African American community. The building was a project of Adolph Ramish, whose holdings were later rolled into the West Coast Theatres circuit. Photo: Bill Counter - 2010

An item in the Times on June 22, 1926 that was located by Ken McIntyre had noted: 

"A picture theater for negroes only to be as elaborately beautiful as any theater in the city and to seat 1700 persons will be built by Adolph Ramish, according to the announcement of that enterprising citizen yesterday. The new theater will be situated at Twenty Third and Central Streets, and the architect will be John Paxton Perrine. All the entertainers who surround the picture bill will be negroes as also will be all attaches and attendants of the house. Films of first quality will be shown, as is done in other first-class neighborhood houses."



An October 5, 1927 article in the Times. Thanks to Mike Hume for locating it. Visit his Historic Theatre Photography site for historcal data and hundreds of photos of the theatres he's explored.  



The opening day ad. At the invitational premiere the previous evening A. Phillip Randolph, the head of the Pullman Porters Union, spoke. Blues singer Sarah Martin and Curtis Mosby’s Dixieland Blue Blowers were on the first week's bill. The revue for the week was "Chocolate Scandals." The opening picture was First National's "Rose of the Golden West" with Mary Astor and Gilbert Roland. Thanks to Cinema Treasures contributor Comfortably Cool for posting the ad on the site's page about the Lincoln

Architect: John Paxton Perrine designed the Moorish inspired building. He also designed the Fox Redondo, the Roosevelt Theatre in Hawthorne, the California Theatre in San Bernardino and the California Theatre in San Diego.

Seating: 1,960. An opening week article in the Times gave the capacity as 2,100. 

This was the showplace of South Central that hosted all the big black touring acts and was famous for its weekly talent shows. A mural of Abraham Lincoln hung above the stairs to the balcony. Performers that have appeared on the Lincoln's stage include Lionel Hampton, Duke Ellington, Nat King Cole, Fats Domino, Sammy Davis Jr., Billie Holliday and BB King.
 
 

An article appearing in the October 14, 1927 issue of the California Eagle, a paper serving the Los Angeles African-American population. Thanks to Jim Lewis for locating the article.


The chorus line at the Lincoln. They were called Mildred Washington's Creole Cuties. It's an undated Los Angeles Public Library photo.



Another look at the Cuties from the Los Angeles Public Library collection. 
 
 
 
A March 1931 ad in the California Eagle. Thanks to Ken McIntyre for adding it as a comment to a post about the theatre on Photos of Los Angeles
 
 

Thanks to Ken McIntyre for locating this October 1933 ad from the California Eagle for a post on the Photos of Los Angeles Facebook page. 
 
 

A November 1943 ad appearing in the California Eagle.  
 
 

An April 1944 ad appearing in the California Eagle. Thanks to Ken McIntyre for posting the 1943 and 1944 ads on Photos of Los Angeles. The post also includes two clippings about the building's conversion to church use. 
 
 

A 1951 ad in the California Eagle. Thanks to Ken McIntyre for adding it as a comment to a post about the theatre on Photos of Los Angeles.

Closing: Sometime around 1961 with Metropolitan Theatres as the last operator. The building was sold in November 1961.

Status: It's been a church since March 1962. After the first church left it was a mosque for a Black Muslim Group. The current group using the building is Ministerios Juda, a group with a Spanish-speaking congregation. Their website: www.pulpitodelaire.org.  

The building was designated Los Angeles Historic Cultural Monument #744 in 2003. It was placed on the National register in 2009. The L.A.Times had a June 12, 2009 story about the occasion. There's a pdf of the National Register application on the Internet Archive Wayback Machine.


Lobby areas:


The lobby after the theatre closed. Photo: Los Angeles Public Library - 1962



Stairs to the balcony. Photo: Los Angeles Public Library - 1962



Balcony stairs after a bit of a remodel. Looks like Abe is no more. Photo: Ken McIntyre - 2007 



The balcony lobby. Photo: Ken McIntyre - 2007


The auditorium:


A look to the stage after the theatre closed. Photo: Los Angeles Public Library - 1962 



A look back from the front of the main floor. Photo: Los Angeles Public Library - 1962
 


A view toward the stage during a church service. Photo: Ken McIntyre - 2007



A look across the balcony. It's a c.2005 photo by Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre. See the Theaters (2005-20xx) portfolio on their website for more of their fine work.



The house left wall in the balcony. Photo: Ken McIntyre - 2007



A look at house right. Photo: Ken McIntyre - 2007 



The back corner house right. Photo: Ken McIntyre - 2007


More exterior views: 


1928 - A view of the "Creole Cuties" and Curtis Mosby’s Dixieland Blues Blowers, the house band, out front. The feature film was "The Shield of Honor," a February release. The photo appears on page 19 of "The Black Music History of Los Angeles - Its Roots: a Classical Pictorial History of Black Music in Los Angeles from 1920-1970." The image is in pdf format from the Oviatt Library - Cal State Northridge. The photo appeared in the book courtesy of Mildred Boyd-Lamkin. The caption: 

"It was the largest venue for Black entertainment west of the Mississippi River. Throughout its existence, the Lincoln Theatre brought in the best of local and international entertainment from film, radio, television and records. Its bill of fare read like 'Who's Who in Sepia Entertainment.' Old timer 'Spud' Collins remembers, 'I saw a live show and movie for only 50 cents in 1928.' In the 1960s, Rev. Samuel Crouch, the uncle of Andre Crouch, bought the legendary Lincoln Theatre, which was used for his Church of Christ Assemblies."
 
 

1928 - Another photo from the same shoot from the collection of Mildred Boyd-Lamkin that appears in "The Black Music History of Los Angeles." The two images are also indexed as "Lincoln Theater Marquee" on the CSUN document "L.A.: On Film and On Record."

 

1949 - A photo taken in July of that year that appears in the NAACP 1949 Convention album on Flickr. Thanks to Ken McIntyre for spotting it for a post on the Photos of Los Angeles Facebook page.    



c.1961 - Looking south on Central after the theatre closed. Photo: Los Angeles Public Library



c.1961 - "For S LE OR L ASE." Photo: Los Angeles Public Library



c.1962 - Thanks to Cinema Treasures contributor Elmorovivo for posting this photo by Harry Adams on the site's page about the Lincoln. The photo appears in a watermarked version on the website of California State University Northridge, where they date it as 1961. The CSUN collection also includes another photo by Mr. Adams taken at the same time, which they date as 1962.



c.1962 - A closer look at the abandoned theatre. It's a Los Angeles Public Library photo that they date as 1960.



1980s - Thanks to American Classic Images for this facade view.



1980s - A south wall view from American Classic Images.



c. 2000 - The theatre between church tenants. It's a photo that appeared on a now-vanished Geocities site about L.A. theatres.  



2005 - Thanks to Bob Meza for this photo, one of three he has on the Cinema Tour page about the Lincoln.




2007 - A facade view appearing on Wikimedia Commons. Note that the building has lost its vertical sign.



2007 - A marquee detail. Photo: Ken McIntyre



2007 - The north side of the front of the building. Photo: Ken McIntyre 



2007 - Looking toward the street from the stage end of the building. Photo: Ken McIntyre. Thanks, Ken!



2010 - Looking east to the facade. Photo: Bill Counter



2010 - A view from the north. Note the exposed roof trusses. Photo: Bill Counter

More Information: See the Cinema Treasures page on the Lincoln. The Cinema Tour page on the theatre has several 2005 Bob Meza exterior photos.

The Lincoln Theatre is discussed at length in R.J. Smith's "The Great Black Way: LA in the 40's" from Public Affairs Press, New York, 2007. It's available on Amazon.

The L.A. Conservancy has a page on the Lincoln. Also see the Wikipedia article on the theatre. The Lincoln also gets a listing with some history on Wikimapia.

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