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Home arrow Working with Section 106 arrow ACHP Case Digest arrow Summer 2002 arrow District of Columbia: Restoration of the Tivoli Theater
Closed Case:
District of Columbia:
Restoration of the Tivoli Theater

Agency: Department of Housing and Urban Development
In an era when many vintage movie houses are being demolished, a once-elegant 1920s movie theater in Washington, DC, will be given new life as part of a neighborhood revitalization plan. Closed in 1976, the 2,000-seat Tivoli Theater was left to deteriorate, and a proposal called for gutting the National-Register property.

Through the Section 106 review process, neighborhood groups and preservation organizations formally presented their views, and much of the historic theater’s character and original function will now be restored.

Designed in 1924 at a cost of $1 million, the 2,000-seat, Mediterranean Revival-style Tivoli Theater in Washington, DC, is a beautiful example of a “palace of the arts.” Among other features, the historic building includes a hexagonal lobby and vaulted dome ceiling, a clay tile roof, friezes, ornate cornices, and graceful arches.

Exterior view of the Tivoli Theater



Tivoli Theater,
Washington, DC
(photo courtesy of
Horning Brothers)



The theater was closed in 1976 and purchased by the city, which planned to redevelop and revitalize the historic Columbia Heights neighborhood, including the parcel of land where the Tivoli Theater stands. Over the next quarter century, the city considered redevelopment plans as the theater deteriorated. In 1999, it awarded a contract to a developer to gut the theater.

Exterior close up of the Tivoli Theater entrance





Tivoli Theater entrance, Washington, DC
(photo courtesy of Horning Brothers)





Because the city acquired the National Register property with Federal funds from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, it was required to conduct the Section 106 review process before proceeding with its plan.

As part of the process, the city consulted with the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, the District of Columbia Historic Preservation Officer, the developer, and concerned neighborhood groups, local and national preservation organizations, and architecture firms.

Following extensive consultation, the parties reached an agreement in July 2002 to restore and reuse the Tivoli. The approved development plan calls for completely restoring the building’s exterior while redeveloping the interior as retail, arts, office, and residential space.

The interior of the Tivoli will retain historic spaces and features of the original theater. GALA Hispanic Theatre's 250-seat house will be located in the balcony of the existing theater, directly underneath the vaulted dome that spans the width of the building. The original mezzanine promenade, accessed by the grand staircases on both sides of the main lobby, will house offices and retail businesses. The original hexagonal theater lobby and promenade will be retained, and the 20-feet neoclassical landscape murals, which are now at Olin Restoration Studios, will once again grace the promenade of the Tivoli.

Staff contact: Ralston Cox

Updated October 7, 2002

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