Documenting the American South


Going to the Show

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LeGrand Theater (opening January 20, 1909; closed by September 1909)

The LeGrand was a downtown storefront movie theater located in one of the two spaces on the first floor of the Bonitz Hotel Building at 129 Market Street, near the corner of Market and 2nd Street in downtown Wilmington. The space is noted on the 1910 Sanborn map as "moving pictures" and is approximately 20 feet wide and 75 feet deep.

It appears to have a seperate entrance for African Americans.

The proprietors of the LeGrand were Washington B. Wells and M.L. Partin. Wells (1848-1909) was the father of Percy Wells, who with James Howard had opened Wilmington's first movie theater, the Bijou, in 1906. Howard and the younger Wells were managing the Bijou the time of the LeGrand's opening.

Washington Wells and his wife Nettie moved from Pennsylvania to Wilmington around 1900. Like his son Percy, Washington Wells seems to have been involved in various aspects of show business. The Wilmington city directories for 1903 and 1905 list his business as "patent medicines." Around the turn of the century, traveling shows hawked patent medicines in country towns throughout the U.S. In the summer of 1907, he was "in charge of some of the concessions on the Exposition grounds" in Norfolk, Virginia.

The LeGrand had been open only three days when Washington Wells was taken ill and died. The LeGrand was sold to Frank Peiffer in the summer of 1909, and he opened the Joyland Theater in that space in September 1909.