Richmond's Byrd Theatre

By Jackie Tomlin

In Carytown, lies one of Virginia’s finest historical landmarks, the Byrd Theatre. Built in 1928, by the Coulter family.
Once referred to as a movie palace, meaning it is so much more than just a theatre, the Byrd is still running shows every
Friday and Saturday night at 7:30PM and 9:30PM.

In 1928, it was one of Virginia’s first theatres. Built in the silent movie era, The Byrd was designed to have sound,
making it Virginia’s first sound theatre. There have been many questions over the years as to if it was originally
constructed as something else. The answer is no, it was built as a theatre. The Byrd opened its doors to the public
December 24, 1928.

With only 13 pipe organs, The Byrd had one of the largest pipe organs in town at the time. The same organ has been
played continuously for over 80 years. It is all acoustical, and only 300 remain today, in various forms. Today there are
only 44 original theatre organs left. Bob Gullege, travels from Virginia Beach to play the organ every Saturday, as he
first learned to play on that very organ. The significance of these organs is that they were played during the silent movie
era. (www.byrdtheatre.com/uploads/organ2.mp3)

For a more in depth history of The Byrd, I invite you to visit (www.byrdtheatre.com/restoration/video-tour/) for a
delightful 16-minute video by VCU.

The Byrd Theatre is currently on the State and National Register of Historical Landmarks. I believe most of you will be
shocked to learn that this actually means that they have not received any funding whatsoever. As a matter of fact, they
even had to pay for the plague.

Today, they thrive on donations and contributions, in which every little bit helps. If you are interested in contributing to
this historical landmark, please contact Thomas C. Yeaman, President of The Byrd Theatre Foundation at (804) 354-
1928.

Like many historical landmarks, The Byrd Theatre also has their fair amount of ghost stories. Robert Coulter was the
General Manager from 1928 to 1971. Robert Coulter was described as being inseparable from the theatre. In 1971 he
was forced to retire, but unfortunately even after retirement, they could not keep him out of the building.

Over the years, an older man has been seen sitting in the balcony in one particular seat. Ironically this was the seat of
preference for Robert Coulter.

Also over the years, there has been a sighting of a little girl in the ladies room. This has been seen also, by one of The
Byrd’s current employees.

According to The Byrd, there is a rumor of a General Manager being killed at The Byrd Theatre. This is not entirely
true. George Stitzer was shot to death making a deposit to the bank. He was Robert Coulter’s assistant manager.
There have been no sightings of George Stitzer to anyone’s knowledge.

On Friday October 16at 11:30PM we will take a closer “paranormal view” of The Byrd Theatre. This will be a
fundraiser for The Byrd and proceeds will go to the preservation of The Byrd Theatre. Join us for a structured
paranormal investigation. The cost will be $10 per person payable at the door. For more information please contact me
at www.meetup.com/paranormalcvapi.
© 2009 Jackie Tomlin..  Examiner.com.  September 2009
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