Byrd Theatre Celebrates 83 Years

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – The Byrd is the founding block of what is now Carytown. It and has always been a special place...not for first run movies necessarily, though there was a time, but because inside these brass doors is a collection of beautiful, intricate, and expensive details...rare imported marble, an enormous pipe organ that rises from the orchestra pit, and that chandelier - two and a half tons of 5,000 hand cut crystals illuminated by 500 colored lights.

For this place to flourish in the depression years was indeed special. The Byrd had air conditioning from day one...a comfortable retreat in summer heat. In the old days it was the show.

But there's much more. Let's go downstairs to see what makes this place work. There's the mechanism that forces cool air through hidden louvers in the ceiling to return air vents on the floor. And there's the big worm gear that raises and lowers the hydraulics involved. Then there's this; toss a penny in and see the ripples in the clear, cold water. The Byrd is built on a live spring...a problem when the project was started in 1928, but not since then. The water is pumped into the city's storm water drainage system. Nobody knows the difference.

In the projection room, modern projectors sit on the original pedestals near the light control board....mechanical of course. But there are problems. The original seats are, in some places, falling apart. There are a thousand things that need attention. It is a work in progress, and the effort now is to keep that progress under way.

"What the Byrd Theatre Foundation would like to see happen is to make sure that the Byrd is here for another 83 years to come," said General Manager Todd Schall-Vess. "When people talk about the Byrd Theatre they don't talk in abstract terms. There connection to the Byrd is very personal. And that is the thing that is really remarkable and irreplaceable about the Byrd."

The Byrd is a rare jewel. Those who come here know that it has been a special place for 83 years. The challenge now is to hold on to keep it alive, to guarantee that future generations will be able to come and appreciate what going to the movies once was, still is, and can continue to be. The films may be B grade, but the Byrd flaunts bygone elegance.

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