Miami History :: The Lyric Theater in Overtown (1913)

Mia_Lyric_Theatre

Lyric Theater – 819 NW 2nd Ave, Miami, FL 33142

OPENING: Overtown is home to the legendary Lyric Theater. Opened in 1913, the Lyric Theater quickly became a major entertainment center for blacks in Miami. The 400-seat theater was built, owned and operated by Geder Walker, a black man from Georgia. In 1915 the Miami Metropolic newspaper described the Lyric Theater as, “possibly the most beautiful and costly playhouse owned by Colored people in all the Southland.” The Lyric Theater served as a symbol of black economic influence, as well as a social gathering place free of discrimination. It was a source of pride and culture within Overtown.

HISTORY: The theater anchored the district known as “Little Broadway,” an area alive with hotels, restaurants and nightclubs frequented by both black and white tourists and residents. Clyde Killens, a local resident and entertainment promoter, was primarily responsible for bringing black entertainersÒ€”who could perform in the clubs on Miami Beach but not stay in the hotelsÒ€”to Overtown, the Lyric Theater and “Little Broadway.” Little Broadway’s roster of stars was spectacular, featuring such performers as Count Basie, Sam Cooke, Aretha Franklin, the Ink Spots, B.B. King, Patti LaBelle, Ella Fitzgerald, Redd Foxx and Mary Wells.

Patterns of entertainment changed at the same time as Overtown’s population and businesses began to decline in the 1960s. The Lyric Theater closed and has remained shuttered for four decades when it was decided it was to reopened and renovated in 2000.

HISTORIC RECOGNITION & RENOVATION: On January 4, 1989, it was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. And in 2000, the theater began a full renovation and expansion including: a new stage and support area. New lobbies, new artist’s dressing rooms. New mechanical and electrical systems. In charge of the project was MEP sub-consultants to R.J. Heisenbottle Architects, PA. The budget for the project was $5 Million.

TODAY: The theater still stands today, but recently was set to go even further renovation and expansion. However, it has run into a bit of trouble according to the Miami New Times. Click here to read their story.

BONUS FACT: Trick Daddy shot the video “Amerika” in front of the theater with Miami director Gil Green. Click here to watch the video.

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