Theater Diaster

Nelson Theatre Fire-1947

Video-Nelson Theatre Fire

The Nelson Theatre in Mt. Jackson, Va was the first purpose built theatre in town and was modeled after the Rosalind Theatre in New York City. The theatre’s popular Art Deco style, complete with geometrical shapes in the glass on the front elevation, was sweeping the country caught up in modernization and technology. It exuded luxury, glamour, and faith in progress.

At the time, a theatre was a major investment that promised large returns. Towns such as Mt. Jackson were the center of the county’s rural, agriculture based communities. Residents flocked to town to do business and shopping. While there, they also were sure to partake in the community’s recreational opportunities. Often times this included the theatre. Children, deposited here by their shopping parents, made up most of the daytime audience while adults filled the afternoon and evening shows before returning home.

Always a prudent business man, Burgess Nelson incorporated commercial and residential space into his theatre design. Two businesses occupied first floor space and apartments filled the top. It continued to serve as a theatre until the 1960s. During its time in operation, it was affected by two major fires which required fire companies from throughout the county to control. Today only the business and residential space are occupied.

Home movie by the late Sam Smith (Woodstock, Va)

Article from Shenandoah Stories—A project by The Shenandoah Public Library.

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