Address110 East Tazewell Street
Norfolk, Virginia 23510
The Father of Vaudeville in the Southeast, Jake Wells built the Granby Theatre in Norfolk in 1901. Wells and his brother Otto controlled the largest theatre circuit in the South by the 1920s with 42 theaters in nine states. The Wells Theatre opened on August 26, 1913. That first year, Maude Adams flew across the stage as Peter Pan and Well’s presented Ben-Hur complete with teams of horses on treadmills. Fred and Adele Astaire, Will Rogers, Billie Burke, John Drew, John Phillip Sousa and Dorothy Gish all appeared on the Wells stage. In 1916, they installed a movie screen and by the beginning of World War II, burlesque had joined the repertory. In the 1960s, the Wells became an x-rated movie house, its backstage area converted into The Jamaican Room, a notorious gin mill and brothel. The Virginia Stage Company moved into the Wells Theatre following restoration on February 7, 1980. $3.5 million in additional restorations were completed in 1986, resulting in the Beaux-Arts gem’s designation as a National Historic Landmark.