The Lyric Center for the Arts is the home of the historic Lyric Opera House.
The Lyric Building, even in altered form, is still capable of showcasing Virginia’s history from an early twentieth-century perspective. Constructed in 1911, the vernacular architectural style, masonry construction type and mixed-use commercial development of the Lyric Building are prototypical of the Virginia Commercial Historic District and attest to the Lyric’s significance within the district. Setting and generous street frontage give the Lyric added prominence. Located toward the western end of Chestnut Street, the Lyric serves as an anchor building that helps define the thinning edge of the historic district.
As a signature building with a high degree of integrity and significance, the Lyric Building captures the spirit of Main Street Virginia at the turn-of-the-century and is listed as contributing on the National Register of Historic Places Registration form (December 20, 1996).
Few other building types trigger the wistful nostalgia the way a historic theatre does. Mention your Main Street theatre to just about anyone who’s lived in the community 50 or more years and you’re likely to hear heartfelt stories about friendship, first dates, afternoon escapes, family traditions or a life-changing movie. More than most buildings, theatres are the places where lifetime memories are made.
The design of the theatre itself is meant to create the illusion of a strange, special world of a different time and place. Vaudeville Theatres and early movie palaces were glamorous, often spectacular and sometimes ostentatious. The Lyric Building, like most buildings on Chestnut Street, is quite conservative by comparison. Design and construction lean more toward the practical end of the spectrum rather than the fanciful. Oddly, given the simplicity of the overall design, the informal arrangement of building elements is almost arbitrary in nature. Subtle eccentricities and lack of consistency is perhaps even more surprising considering the accomplished architects associated with its early conceptual design. Elevation drawings of the Lyric Building primary commercial façade bear the names of Ellerbe, Round and Sullivan. Franklin Ellerbe worked in partnership with Olin Round and William Sullivan on the design of the Lyric Building.
For more information on the history and future of the Lyric Building visit our web site at www.lyriccenteronline.org