Demolition begins on historic W.C. Handy Theater

Demolition begins on historic W.C. Handy Theater

(WMC-TV) – The historic W.C. Handy Theater, which hosted legendary African-American acts in the 50s and 60s, came crumbling down.

The theater was built in 1946, and hosted musicians like Lionel Hampton, the Bar-Kays, and Louis Armstrong.

But now, the theater on Park Avenue is considered an eyesore by some, after years of neglect.

Dr. Charles Pinkston has been cleaning teeth in his office across the street from the theater for what seems like forever.

"Since 1857. Yeah, 55 years," said Dr. Pinkson.

The dentist watched as the W.C. Handy Theater went from vibrant to forgotten.

"People been demolishing it, going in, sleeping in it," he said.

Memphis City Councilwoman Wanda Halbert has tried for five years to have the building demolished in hopes that it will be the start of a new revitalization effort in the Orange Mound community.

"It was definitely an eyesore that needed to come down," she said.

Mayor A C Wharton agreed, "You hate to lose anything with the Handy name but we have to balance that history what it's doing to the detriment of this community."

Mayor Wharton said property values nearby will appreciate it.

"I hope that once it's down, something else can be put there in its place," said Dr. Pinkston.

The city will salvage the marquis, but everything else will be destroyed.

Public works is doing the demolition for a savings of $50,000. It will still cost $115,000 to complete and will take about four to six weeks.

The mayor says the city is aggressively seeking a developer for the land.

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