The Colonial Theatre Tea Garden

The beauty spot of downtown Richmond was, in 1921, the Tea Garden of the brand-new Colonial Theatre. Herein, we recreate the essence of elegance, joy and hauteur that was once found in Virginia's first real picture palace. Bathtub gin is available at the top of the grand ramps.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Thunderstorms are really cool. No, not just because they boom and crash and scare the bejesus out of the cats (who are normally not afraid of storms, but nearly wet themselves and went flying this afternoon when a big bolt hit somewhere in the block). They are also literally cool; the one that hit Baltimore today brought the temperature down a good twenty degrees. This was a very good thing because the temperature was hovering around 100. I didn't even have the energy to complain about the heat.

Sadly, thunderstorms are not always cool in all ways. This one brought down an ancient landmark of West Baltimore, the gigantic and impressive edifice that was once St. Paul's Evangelical Lutheran Church and which had served for the past fifty years as First Mount Olive Baptist. Always a monumentally-scaled building, it was built of brick but had been Formstoned somewhere along the line. The Formstoning had been pretty well done though; it was convincing enough to make most people think the church was actually built of stone. Its steeple was one of the city's highest, or at least it was until about three o'clock this afternoon, when lightning struck it, set it ablaze and destroyed most of the 140-year-old church. First Mount Olive was one of the few remaining aspects of West Baltimore that actually worked--a grand historic church still in use and attended by thousands. This is one of those things that makes me wonder if God doesn't drop acid once in a while--why let this get destroyed? There are plenty of things in West Baltimore that really should be burned to the ground.

Please note, also, my reference to "West Baltimore." It has lately become fashionable to refer to the old shopping district and the innermost residential sections as the "West Side." We do not have East and West Sides. Those are in New York. Richmond has East and West Ends. Here, the compass points outside the downtown section are just East Baltimore, West Baltimore, North Baltimore and South Baltimore. Please get it right. It's bad enough having to explain to people who just moved here that, no matter what their real estate agents told them, their house at Fleet and Grundy is decidedly in Highlandtown and not in Canton, much less that the East Side is two hundred and fifty miles to the northeast.