Old Georgetown Theater, Soon to Be Empty, Still For Sale

Way back in 2009, GM reported that the Heon family was quietly trying to sell the historic Georgetown theater building, which they’ve owned since 1949. At that point, the price was quoted at $4.9 million.

Skip to today, and according to PoP the building is still for sale. He was unable to determine the current price.

GM had heard that vendors the National Jewel Center were slowly shutting down business. And now Silverman confirms that all the jewelers will be out by the end of August.

Everyone’s got a favorite candidate they’d like to see replace the Jewel Center. Having the space return as a theater is probably the most common refrain. But GM’s heard ideas ranging from a music venue to a DC location of NY’s Eataly concept.

All these are great, if not likely, ideas. But they ignore the fact that the building is a complete and utter wreck inside. A total gut job is required. And then you have you ask yourself, why even bother? While the decrepit neon sign is a landmark, and its restoration would be great, the rest of the facade is not worth saving. It’s a 1950’s renovation that uses ugly formstone (it’s the fake brick stuff you see all over Baltimore). It’s not historic. What was historic was the facade of the Dumbarton Theater that they destroyed to put up the ugly fake brick veneer:

This was an utterly fantastical church of entertainment. Looking like a mix of a bishop’s mitre and birthday cake, it was a facade completely out of place in Georgetown, which probably made it an absolute magnet on Saturday afternoons. That was something worth saving. But it’s gone.

No, in GM’s opinion, the only likely outcome is a tear-down and the construction of a new building. Hopefully it will incorporate the old sign newly renovated. But who knows. Maybe someone out there with too much money wants to bring back the old facade.

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14 Comments

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14 responses to “Old Georgetown Theater, Soon to Be Empty, Still For Sale

  1. Anonymous, please: "Nemo"

    Are you sure the facade of the old Dumbarton Theater was destroyed? Frequently, these perma-stone atrocities were simply installed over the existing front of the building. Who knows, the original may lie relatively intact, waiting to be restored. By all means, bring it back as a theater. It was (along with the old Calvert Theater, now the site of the Sheffield condominium), a great “second-run” house for big films that had played in the great film palaces downtown. After a run on “F” Street, they would be shown in the neighborhood theaters.

  2. It has been a dream of mine for years to win Powerball and restore the old theater to its art nouveau splendor. Unfortunately that probably will never happen now, but probably anything is better than the sad, derelict thing it is now.

  3. William,
    Hey, that’s my dream too!

  4. GeorgeM

    I remember reading about 5 years ago that someone had promised to pay to restore the neon Georgetown sign on that building but nothing ever came of it. It used to be an acceptable theater until the management (maybe to deliberately lose money and force a sale) played the pornographic/historical costume drama “Caligula” there for about two years straight. The theater finally went out of business after it showed the otherwise forgettable “The Osterman Weekend” for about five months…about four months and two weeks after it had been pulled out of all other theaters nationwide.

  5. JS

    There is perhaps no structure in Georgetown that saddens me more. It is heartening that so many others seem to want to see splendor here.

  6. Let Outerbridge Horsey redo the whole building and turn it into a museum for Georgetown. The history of this community is unparalled in America. The museum would be a great drawing card for tourists and put some real life back onto the sidewalks of Georgetown, instead of being a block of bling bling buyers.

  7. GM

    @ Nemo: I walked by the theater tonight. You can see that the formstone is just plaster that’s only about half an inch thick and is resting on chicken wire. It’s possible that the old facade is still below. We can hope at least.

    @ William: I share your dream too, but only the lotto part.

    @ GeorgeM : Yes, the BID proposed to fix up the sign (it was architect Robert Bell’s idea). But then people at the BID started complaining about money being spent to spruce up private property, especially private property that was already for sale. So the plans got scotched.

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