310-0024-0024

DAW Theatre

VLR Listing Date

03/21/2024

NRHP Listing Date

NA

NRHP Reference Number

NA

The Colonial Revival style DAW Theatre, built in1938-39, and rebuilt after a fire in 1949, is a rare example of a pre-World War II movie and live performance venue in the rural Essex County courthouse town of Tappahannock.  The theatre was the entertainment center of the Tappahannock community and outlying area for over six decades. It was named DAW after Elias Marion Doar, Jr. (1896-1955), Harry S. Atkinson (ca. 1894-1953), and Raymond Byrd Wallace (1908-1984).  The theatre seated 500 and cost between $25,000 and $30,000. Its success mirrored that of its long-term owner, George C. Clanton, who also served the Town for forty years as mayor.  Its Colonial Revival-style architecture, well-suited to the town’s historic roots, also reflected the skills and versatility of its designer, Edward F. Sinnott, a recognized theatre specialist whose Art Deco-style Henrico Theatre is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.  At one time there were ten to twenty motion picture venues that covered the Northern Neck and Middle Peninsula, beginning in the 1920s, with a few lasting into the 1960s and 70s.  Some of these venues were accommodated in pre-existing buildings and only one or two of the purpose-built theatres still survive, remodeled, and no-longer serving as theatres.  For Tappahannock and the larger community, the DAW Theatre served both White and Black residents by providing segregated facilities or actually segregating the events that took place at the Theatre.  Some significant events include George Clanton becoming a majority owner of the Theatre in 1941; the screening of the movie “Stormy Weather,” featuring African American stars Lena Horne, Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, Cab Calloway, Katherine Dunham, and Fats Waller that moved the DAW Theatre management to allow more showings and seating for African Americans; and the 1949 catastrophic fire and rebuilding/reopening within that same year.

Last Updated: March 21, 2024

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Abbreviations:
VLR: Virginia Landmarks Register
NPS: National Park Service
NRHP: National Register of Historic Places
NHL: National Historic Landmark

For additional information Read

Nomination Form

028-5084

Occupacia-Rappahannock Rural Historic District

Essex (County)

028-5030

Millers Tavern Rural Historic District

Essex (County)

028-0010

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Essex (County)