Hanbury Preservation Consulting

P.O. Box 6049
Raleigh, NC 27628 USA
(919) 828-1905 phone

Commodore Theater

The Commodore Theatre, named for Commodore James Baron, was built by Portsmouth native William Stanley Wilder in 1945. Wilder owned and operated a chain of theaters in the Tidewater Virginia area from the 1920s until the 1940s. He hired a Baltimore architect, John Zink, to design what is arguably his finest theater and what was ultimately his last. The Art Deco building retains much of its lush appointments including the marquee, stylized ticket booth, ticket taker's stand, and murals. Wilder believed in community theaters and the Commodore is the last remaining and operating movie house of a string of theaters which served Portsmouth's downtown. The theater degenerated to an X-rated theater and closed in the 1970s. It was resurrected and restored in the 1980s and again serves to entertain area residents.

The Commodore Theater was listed on the Virginia Landmarks Register in December 1996  and on the National Register of Historic Places in February 1997.  The National Register nomination was co-authored by Mary Ruffin Hanbury and Calder Loth while staff for the Virginia Department of Historic Resources. The nomination can be found here