First a Nickelodeon and then a Black Vaudeville Showhouse
Amanda Thorp, out of Ohio, opened the first movie theater in Richmond in this building at 18 West Broad in 1908. She charged 5 cents a throw for customers to come and see the silent films of the day. The theater was located near segregated area of Jackson Ward. Thorp didn’t take long to realize she could make even more money catering to the African American patron. She opened another theater for Whites down the street and then converted this one to Black moviegoers. Movies at the time were filmed by White companies with White actors acting out White vignettes. So she changed her offerings to Black vaudeville acts.
Some of Black vaudeville’s most important acts played at the Dixie: Perry Bradford, Susie Sutton, Johnnie Woods and his ventriloquist puppet Little Henry, the Griffin Sisters, Lottie Gee, the Whitman Sisters, U.S. “Slow Kid” Thompson, Henry Jines, and Stringbeans (aka Butler May), to name a few.
The building, now home to a gift shop called the Sideshow (check it out online!), was likely built in 1871, and was originally intended as a grocery. The property itself can be traced back even further and has an unlikely connection to the Lumpkin family. Robert F. Lumpkin, a brother to George Lumpkin who owned the property, was the notorious slave trader who ran Lumpkin’s Jail, known as Devil’s Half Acre, in Shockoe Bottom. Robert was a trustee George’s will when the property passed to George’s wife.
A full history of this fascinating building is available here: History of the Building at 18 West Broad
Amanda Thorp’s story is told in a new book by Kathi Clark Wong, “Nickelodeons and Black Vaudeville: The Forgotten Story of Amanda Thorp,” and is available at local bookstores and gift shops as well as online purveyors.
Book People, Richmond, Virginia
Fountain Book Store, Richmond, Virginia
Shelflife Books (formerly Chop Suey Bookstore), Richmond, Virginia
Following (for search purposes) are names of persons in the studied family or persons closely associated with it, including their birth and death dates when known. All persons are thought to have been born in Richmond or nearby Henrico County unless otherwise noted. Patronymic names of women are underlined.
- George Lumpkin
- Elizabeth Lumpkin Oliver
- Frances Ann Lumpkin
- George Thomas Lumpkin
- Robert F. Lumpkin
- Thurston Lumpkin
- Robert W. Oliver
- Wilson C. Thomas
- Joseph J. Pleasants
- Alice R. Thomas
- John T. Anderson (b. circa 1844, probably Amelia County, Virginia)
- James F. Ligon (also spelled Liggan) (b. circa 1841, probably Amelia County, Virginia)
- Crump (brothers); Edward M. Crump; Jonh (sic, or John) Crump, Albion W. Crump
- John Braxton
- George Timberlake
- Clara Ligon (also spelled Liggan)
- John T. Anderson, Jr.
- Matthew Anderson
- James M. Anderson (b. circa 1837, probably Amelia County, Virginia)
- William Joseph Anderson (b. circa 1839, probably Amelia County, Virginia)
- Nancy Anderson (b. circa 1842, probably Amelia County, Virginia)
- Gabriel Ligon (also spelled Liggan) (b. circa 1835, probably Amelia County, Virginia)
- Richard H. Ligon (also spelled Liggan) (b. circa 1838, probably Amelia County, Virginia)
- Moses Moonshine
- Henry (an enslaved man)
- Captain Cardon
- Lewis Patrick
- Amanda Thorp
- Charles Somma
- Walter Coulter
- James Cowan
- Alfred P. Seligman
- Alisa P. Seligman
- Lucy Gray Anderson Llewellyn
- Robert R. Anderson
- William Bright Anderson
- Mollie Anderson
- Lizzie C. Anderson
- Edward S. Anderson
- Viola D. Anderson
- Lelia Myers Anderson
- Robert Reynolds Anderson, Jr.
- Mary Anderson Whippo
Other search terms: Richmond, Virginia, Devil’s Half Acre, Anderson and Ligon, Brook and Broad, Brook Avenue, Adams Street, National Register of Historic Places (Broad Street Commercial Historic District), grocers, Charles S. Morgan (mapmaker), Richard Young (surveyor), Marquis de Lafayette (French Revolutionary officer), Brook Turnpike Company, Richmond, Fredericksburg, and Potomac (RF&P) Railroad, gas lights, sewer system, sidewalks, electric streetcar lines, auction, ice, stables, wood yard, tourist, gambling, Jim Crow, parades, stable, vote, Masonic Temple, Sanborn Map Company, cigar factory, tobacco factory, watchmaker, loading dock, Mile of Amusement, Lunette, The Flying Lady, Theodore Roosevelt, Virginia Union University, Woodward and Lothrop, Miller and Rhoads, Mayor McCarthy, Jurgens Furniture Store fire, Horse Fountain, National Humane Society of Maine, Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, Dixie Theater, African American Theater, early Black vaudeville, Miller Supply Company, Byrd Theater, Stewart’s House of Plenty, Colonial Piano Corporation, Sanitary Grocery Company, Piggly Wiggly, Bargain Furniture Mart, Dixie Lunch, Micajah Bates (mapmaker), C. Bohn (mapmaker)