Howard Theatre in Washington DC

A Restored Historic Landmark and Live Entertainment Venue

Howard Theatre
Photo © Howard Theatre

The Howard Theatre, the historic theater in Washington DC that launched the careers of Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Marvin Gaye and The Supremes, re-opened in April 2012 after a $29 million renovation. The remodeled theater features a state-of-the-art acoustic system and offers a wide-range of live entertainment. The new configuration, with black walnut walls, oak floors and Brazilian granite bars on each level, features ten foot video screens and recording capabilities allowing The Howard to retain the intimate feel of its former space. The building combines elements of Beaux Arts, Italian Renaissance and neoclassical design. The balconied interior is built with flexibility including supper club-style seating for approximately 650, which can be quickly adjusted to allow standing room for 1,100.

The Howard Theatre is operated by Blue Note Entertainment Group, the owners and operators of clubs and theaters around the world which include the Blue Note Jazz Club, B.B. King Blues Club and The Highline Ballroom in New York.

620 T Street NW
Washington, DC

The closest Metro station is Shaw/Howard U. The Howard Theatre is located in the Shaw/U Street neighborhood that was once the nation’s "Black Broadway" and home to the largest concentration of African American social clubs, religious organizations, theaters, and jazz clubs.

Tickets may be purchased at the box office, through, or by phone at (800) 653-8000.

Seating for all shows is first come, first seated.
Prepaid parking passes are available.

Dining at the Howard Theatre
A full dining menu features American cuisine with classic soul influences. Door open two hours prior to all seated shows, with first-come, first-serve basis seating. For standing room-only shows, a streamlined menu will be offered. Each Sunday, the Harlem Gospel Choir performs during the Gospel Brunch, a southern-style buffet that includes corn bread, shrimp and grits, collard greens and more. Tickets are $35 in advance and $45 at the door. Special accommodation can be made for large parties of 10 or more. Doors open at noon and the concert begins at 1:30 p.m.

History of the Howard Theatre

The Howard Theatre was originally built by architect J. Edward Storck for the National Amusement Company and opened on August 22, 1910. It featured vaudeville, live theatre, talent shows, and was home to two performing companies, the Lafayette Players and the Howard University Players.

After the stock market crash of 1929, the building was briefly converted into a church until Shep Allen, a theatre manager from Atlantic City, reopened it for its original purpose in 1931. Allen, who recruited native Washingtonian Duke Ellington to play the theatre’s first night, brought the theatre national attention by introducing Amateur Night Contests (whose early winners included Ella Fitzgerald and Billy Eckstine) and nationally-regarded performers including Pearl Bailey, Dinah Washington, Sammy Davis, Jr., Lena Horne, Lionel Hampton, Aretha Franklin, James Brown, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Dizzy Gillespie and The Supremes, who made their first stage appearance at the Howard. Speakers to grace the stage included Booker T. Washington and Sydney Poitier, as well as comedians including Redd Foxx and Moms Mabley. The theatre’s balls and galas attracted President and Mrs. Roosevelt, Abbott and Costello, Ceasar Romero and Danny Kaye. As the 1950’s ushered in a new musical era, the theatre became a leading venue for rock and blues artists as well as a home for jazz big bands.

When the nation was deeply divided by segregation, The Howard Theatre provided a place where color barriers blurred and music unified. The theatre was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974. While The Howard Theatre inspired change, it felt the impact of a nation in flux following the 1968 riots. Eventually, the degradation of the neighborhood forced the theatre to close in 1980. In 2000, the Howard Theatre was designated an American Treasure under the “Save America’s Treasures” program. In 2006, Howard Theatre Restoration was formed to raise funds for the restoration and the construction of the Howard Theatre Culture and Education Center, which will house a museum, classrooms, listening library, recording studio, and offices.

Remodeled Theatre Features

  • 12,172 square foot, contemporary design
  • Two-story theatre and basement
  • Full-service restaurant and kitchen
  • Dome ceiling with multi-colored, LED hanging lights
  • 2 DJ Booths
  • Light box images, illuminating pictures of historical performing artists throughout
  • Custom signage designed to resemble the interior style
  • Custom café styled seating made of walnut and leather materials
  • Design includes a variety of seating styles: banquet-style seating on the main floor, booth seating, theatre style seats on the second floor balcony, lounges on the side balconies, and bar seating on the first and second floor
  • Hydraulic lift allows easy movement of furniture including tables and chairs to be moved to the basement for easy storage, clearing the main floor for dancing events and festival-style entertainment
  • Large projection screens on either side of the stage and large screen monitors throughout the venue
  • Two Brazilian granite bars (on the first and second floor) and a fully equipped restaurant kitchen
  • Green Room for the performers and artists

About the Remodeling Team

Marshall Moya Design was charged with the design of the interior architecture. Marshall Moya Design is a highly regarded architectural, product design, graphic design, urban design and interior design firm located in Washington, DC. The firm provides design services for a diverse range of clients including developers, institutional organizations, government agencies, non-profit organizations, commercial ventures and private residential clients.

Martinez and Johnson Architecture was responsible for the exterior facade and back of house space. Martinez and Johnson is an award winning architectural and design firm located in Washington, DC. The firm has developed projects for a wide range of clients including not-for-profit associations, educational institutions, and the nation’s largest promoters and presenters of live entertainment.

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