Terrace Theater scheduled for demolition

cover0315.jpgIn the Hook’s April 15, 2004 cover story, "Recent passed: Will groovy structures be landmarks?", preservationist Christine Madrid French, president of the Recent Past Preservation Network, cited the Terrace Theater as one of the unlikely jewels of modernist architecture in Charlottesville. In fact, a striking image of the old theater on Hydraulic Road, which has been closed for almost seven years, appeared on the cover (left). In addition, the building served as one of the show pieces in the story about the importance of recognizing the historic and architectural value of the City’s more modern buildings.

"This is a lot like a theater I'm trying to save in Berkeley," said French of the Terrace, "but the Berkeley place has been a porn theater, and nobody wants to save a porn theater."

Apparently, no one is interested in saving the Terrace either.cover-terracetriple.jpg

According to Neighborhood Development Services staff, R. S. Woodson Excavating Inc. has applied for a permit to demolish the theater, located at 1801 Hydraulic Road. Although the permit has not yet been approved, City Preservation and Design Planner Mary Joy Scala has already determined that the property is not designated historic, which leaves little doubt the theater will see the wrecking ball sometime soon.

The theater stands in the way of the proposed Hillsdale Connector.



The walls are concave inside the lobby, where a large concession stand occupied the middle ground.

Some of the first-run movies I recall seeing there in

The walls are concave with white tiles inside the lobby, where a large concession stand occupied the middle ground.

Some of the first-run movies I recall seeing there long ago include The Road Warrior (1981), Moonraker (1979) and, during a wild mindnight show, George Romero's zombie materpiece, Dawn of the Dead (1978). I could hardly hear the movie; there were so many beer bottles and cans rolling down the theater under the seats.

Every couple of months, you could catch a midnight screening of The Song Remains the Same (1976) and catch a contact high off the sweet, pungent air inside the auditorium.

During the 1970s, the Terrace management used to advertise "Businessman's Luncheon" screenings in -- yep -- The Daily Progress. As a teenager I remember seeing those advertisements for midday showings of peculiar film titles like Ilsa: She Wolf of the SS and A Clockwork Orange. At the time, across Hydraulic Road where a Kroger's grocery now stands, there was a drive-in theater. I believe it was called the Ridge. As drive-ins began to die out with the advent of VCRs and movie rentals (and the fact that the real estate was more valuable than the underlying worth of the business), the Ridge got in the habit of screening porn.

It was quite a surprise to be driving east on Hydraulic with a date, only to glance to the right and see giant genitalia undulating in the darkness.

That little experiment with naughty cinema didn't last long -- I vaguley recall the city elders taking up an ordinance to put a stop to such mischief, and the drive-in closed soon after.

On a semi-related note, there may be a few Hook readers who recall seeing Boston (!) at U-Hall in 1978. General admission was $7.50.

Ah, but that's enough.

I hate to see a "landmark" go, but getting better road networks will probably be worth it. This place is getting out of hand --- I feel a sense of dread every time I get into my car and know I'll have to get on 29.