Missing entrance? Color the Progress clueless

The so-called "colored" entrance to the Paramount Theater can be called a lot of things:

*a humble way to enter a grand building,

*a curious historic artifact, and

*a painful reminder of the Jim Crow South.

Call it what you will, but don't call it "removed." A headline and story in the July 17 Daily Progress made things sound pretty dire for fans of preserving the noteworthy entrance.

The city "lost a historical landmark during renovation work in May on the theater," read the Progress story. But in fact, the historic entrance is still there, as it always was. It is merely the rusty old fire escape that was removed.

"I don't know how the removal of the fire escape became the removal of the minority entrance," says George Ray, vice president of restoration on the Paramount board. "When I hear we tore down the old minority entrance, it's simply not accurate."

The black entrance will be totally restored to the way it was "the day it opened," says Ray, and the board plans to memorialize that segment of the Paramount's history.

So did the removed fire escape have any historical significance? No, says Ray.

In fact, its removal was approved by two entities that issue tax credits for historical preservation: the National Park Service and the State Historic Resources Department, as well as by the Board of Architectural Review, notes Ray.

The old entrance still has the power to pull emotions. Growing up in Charlottesville in the 1960s, Audrey Oliver had to use the "colored" entrance. "It bothers me when I go by there," Oliver said in a story in a local newsletter. "I don't like to walk there."



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