Coconut Grove

Coconut Grove

Former West Grove theater named historic site

 

jsalo@MiamiHerald.com

Miami’s Historic and Environmental Preservation Board designated the ACE Theater on Grand Avenue as a historic site Tuesday.

For residents in the West Grove, the ACE Theater is a relic of the years of segregation. The movie theater, which was built circa 1930, was the only one to serve the black community in the Grove in the 1950s.

The building has since lost its luster, and stands as a shell of what it once was. The marquee has not lit up for years, and the pink facade that once distinguished the theater was painted white.

Plans to restore the theater never came to fruition and the rooms that housed sold-out audiences remain abandoned.

But the theater, albeit empty, has not been forgotten.

Many longtime West Grove residents turned out for the historic preservation board’s meeting to share memories of dates, first jobs and even proms inside the theater.

“This was much more than a movie place,” said Denise Wallace, president of ACE Development, which owns the building.

For Wallace, the testimony from community members were emotional. Her family has owned the building since her late father purchased the theater from Wometco Enterprises in 1979, but she did not initially realize the significance the theater had.

“It took me some time to realize that for some people it represents so much of their lives,” Wallace said.

She was surprised to see there were board members equally as moved by the testimony.

Board member Timothy Barber commended the Wallace family and other advocates for their work to preserve the theater.

“I teach a class in American History, and sometimes kids these days have trouble understanding the past,” Barber said. “It is hard for them to see what colored people had to go through. When I see people like the Wallace family try to preserve this history, I am grateful. … I am in tears up here.”

The board voted unanimously to approve the theater as a historic site. This designation validates what the Wallace family has felt for years.

“You will hear from my family and the community that the theater is already being called historic,” Wallace said. “It has been called historic by community members, and interestingly enough it has been called historic by the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau.”

Wallace says she also hopes to pursue historic designation on the state and national levels. With these designations, she says it will open the door to more grants so they can restore the theater to a vibrant community center.

“With the historical designation, we are not only celebrating the antiquity of the theater, but its future as well,” said board member Gary Hecht.

Read more Coconut Grove stories from the Miami Herald

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK