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A Holiday Horror Story: The Richmond Theatre Fire of 1811

Updated: Feb 26, 2021

2020 has been very “different” compared to most other years and so, our Christmas post this year is going to be “different” as well. The tradition of telling ghost stories around the end of the year (Holiday Season) goes back much, much further than Charles Dicken’s “A Christmas Carol” — maybe even further than Christmas itself. In the days before gas and electric lighting, when the nights grew long, and the year is coming to a close, it was only natural that people felt an instinct to gather together during the long nights and that required some sort of entertainment. Additionally, as the year ended, it also made sense to think about people that were no longer with us.

Christmas, as celebrated in Europe and the U.S., originally related to the “pagan” Winter Solstice celebration and the festival known as Yule. People saw the darkest day of the year as a time when the dead would have particularly good access to the living. Thus, the origins of the Christmas ghost story have little to do with the commercial Christmas we celebrate today, and more to do with darker, older, more fundamental things: winter, death, rebirth, and the connection between a teller and his or her audience.

The topic of today’s article is not a ghost story per se. It is however a true holiday horror story. Our subject matter is the Richmond Theatre Fire of December 26, 1811 which, at the time, was the deadliest urban disaster in American history.

The Background to the Disaster

1811 had been a year of disasters that the superstitious thought reflected the social and political unrest in the United States. These disasters and omens ranged from the Great Comet of 1811, to tornados from Maine to Georgia, to volcanic eruptions in the Azores creating new islands, to the New Madrid earthquake - the strongest ever to hit the continental US and estimated to have been an 8.1 on the Richter scale. Just as the natural disasters of 2020 (pandemic, hurricanes, etc.) have increased the levels of anxiety beyond what would normally exist around national elections, many people in 1811 felt these were signs of a coming apocalypse. Thomas Brown, a resident of Richmond, reflecting on this time later wrote in his diary:

“This was a winter of fear and trembling, especially with the superstitious and weak minded. A large comet had appeared in the fall accompanied by a long season of warm dry and sultry weather, and many speculations were made in the paper about it, some contending that it was approaching the earth and might come near enough to destroy it. There were some severe shocks of earthquakes, the severest ever experienced in Virginia. In Richmond some houses rocked and chimneys fell. The house I lived in so sensibly moved that I sprung out of bed not suspecting the cause. To complete the whole, a crazy man or a knave, wrote a prophecy published in pamphlets that the world would be destroyed on a certain day and many believed it. Some actually died of imagination and fear”.

Report on the Academy of Arts and Science in Richmond presented to the King of France
Report to the King of France

When the Richmond Theatre was built in 1806, the site had already been in public use for some time and had already experienced fire. The site originally housed Quesnay de Beaurepaire’s Academy. That Academy was an attempt at “improving” America by introducing “French culture and the fine arts”, whilst simultaneously improving relations between the USA and France. Quesnay broke ground on his Academy in the summer of 1786. Although the building was incomplete, by the following year it was already being used to house theatrical productions of Lewis Hallam, Jr’s Old American Company. With the beginning of the French Revolution in 1789, fiscal support and goodwill for Quesnay’s project dried up. Now, stripped of its originally intended educational purpose, the building itself became known, alternately, as the Richmond Theatre, and as the Old Academy.

Thomas Wade West, a British immigrant who arrived in Philadelphia in 1790 with his wife Margaretta, his daughter Ann, and his son-in-law John Bignall, formed a troupe of actors called alternately the “Virginia Company” and the “South Carolina Company” who began performing in the Old Academy building. The Academy building was eventually retrofitted to better function as a theatre space, but burned down in January 1798, in an event that Richmond historian Samuel Mordecai described as almost predestined, since it was entirely constructed of wood. West died in 1799 after he had moved his family north to Alexandria, to live in a theatre he was buying that was still under construction.

The Richmond Theatre

Another wooden theatre was built on the spot of the Old Academy in 1806. This was the Richmond Theatre that would burn in 1811. Information about the physical structure of the Richmond Theatre is sparse, but a functional description can be derived from first person accounts of the theatre and the fire that were given to newspapers and the investigators following the fire.

The building was three stories high and made primarily of wood on the exterior, with brick supports. It measured ninety feet by fifty feet, surrounded on four sides by forty yards of grass. Rows of windows adorned the front of the building, and the highest among them was a bull’s eye window, a semicircular window near the top of the gable end.

Most audience members entered the building through the North side front door. Additionally, there were separate doors for access to the gallery and the stage. All these doors opened inwards. Once through the front door, patrons found themselves in “a gloomy passage, between two naked brick walls”. This “gloomy passage” served as lobby for the theatre and terminated in “a partition door where checks were received”. The gloomy passage also supplied access, via a narrow and angular set of stairs to the first and second levels of box seating. Supported by wooden pillars that creaked under the weight of audience members, the stairs stopped at half-stories in small landings before a ninety-degree turn continued the climb.

The box seats and pit sharing a common entrance and exit was something of a curiosity in theatrical architecture at the time, theatres often designed with attention to the theatre’s role in social consciousness and class stratification. It was also extremely dangerous, guaranteeing that, in case of an emergency, an enormous part of the audience would be competing to exit through the same small lobbies and stairway. Access to the boxes on each level was provided via a small lobby and two small hallways, each built so narrowly that “two persons could scarcely pass at the same time”. These lobbies probably faced the front gable of the building, and a theatre goer standing there would have been able to look out onto H Street (modern-day Broad Street).

The interior of the building reflected a typical theatre arrangement of the nineteenth century. Semicircular rows of benches formed the pit of the theatre, where the average citizen of Richmond would have found himself or herself. Over the pit, in the ceiling, was a dome. The ceiling itself was exposed wood, wrapped with canvas, and painted to match the box seats. Across the ceiling, exposed wooden beams supported the roof. In front of the benches, there was an orchestra pit where musicians would play along with productions, and for the popular and bawdy intermezzo songs and dances that broke up long evenings of performances. Along the sides of the theatre, suspended in the air by wooden pillars, were two rows of box seats, their fronts wrapped in painted canvas. Level with the uppermost box seats was gallery seating, a place reserved for the lower-class citizens of Richmond, which included the poor, prostitutes, free blacks, and slaves. The gallery had a separate entrance and exit, built so that the more affluent members of Richmond society would not have to see or interact with these folks. This separate exit provided the gallery patrons with a remarkably quick, easy, and safe escape from the theatre. Behind the proscenium arch of the stage was a system of pulleys that hoisted set pieces and backdrops into the air, supported by one of the collar beams built into the ceiling structure. The backstage area also included a green room, dressing rooms, and an office. A private stage door provided the actors with a quick and safe exit outside.

The roof and walls, unsealed and un-plastered, were covered in oil-painted canvas for the sake of aesthetics. Above the ceiling canvas, was the pine roof, saturated with resin, having sweated its contents over five long, hot, humid summers. The theatre was a virtual deathtrap in waiting, a tinderbox ready to explode into an all-consuming inferno. All it lacked was a spark.

The Fire

The night of December 26th, the theatre opened to a packed house. According to the Richmond Committee of Investigation, most of the audience—518 adults and 80 children, according to ticket sales—had paid a dollar to sit on benches in front of the stage or in more exclusive raised boxes along each side of the theater. Another 50 patrons, including some free and enslaved African Americans, had paid twenty-five cents each to sit in the gallery, or balcony. Although there were no laws limiting occupancy in those days, this was well beyond a reasonable capacity for the relatively small building.

Governor George William Smith of Virginia
Governor George William Smith of Virginia

Many in the theatre represented the best of the Richmond elite: including newly-elected Governor George W. Smith, Bank President Abraham Venable; Benjamin Botts, the lawyer, who had served with John Wickham during Aaron Burr’s trial, and his wife Jane. Also present was the war hero Lt. James Gibbon, Jr., who had suffered a year of imprisonment at the hands of Tripolitan pirates when the USS Philadelphia ran aground during the First Barbary War in 1803. Many of the youth of the city were present, as well.

The program for the evening featured two full-length plays, performed by the Placide and Green Company, separated by an intermission of four short, light musical numbers. The first play, The Father; or, Family Feuds, was an English translation of Le Père de famille (1758) by Denis Diderot. The second play, Raymond and Agnes; or, the Bleeding Nun, by M. G. Lewis, was a pantomime, a British form of theater, generally reserved for the holiday season, that involved music, slapstick, gender-crossing, and audience interaction. Pantomimes were considered suitable for the family and attracted many parents with their children.

Alexander Placide of the Placide and Green Company
Alexander Placide of the Placide and Green Company

The Richmond Theatre's doors typically opened at six, with the entertainment beginning at seven and lasting up to five hours. The first act consisted of the play “Family Feuds” and other short performances illuminated by a chandelier. According to one witness, the fire began at "about half past ten o'clock." The curtain had just closed on the first act of the second play, Raymond and Agnes, when the property man, Mr. Rice noticed that the prop chandelier, which was fitted with 2 wicks, had been raised with at least one of them still burning. Above the stage hung thirty-four backdrops painted with oil on hemp canvas. Fearing that these would catch fire, the property man ordered one of the carpenters to lower the chandelier and put out the flame. As the carpenter tried to lower the chandelier, the ropes became tangled and it began to swing, contacting some of the scenery. The actor Thomas C. West later testified to having seen the property-man issue his order a second time, but he became distracted with another issue and did not follow up.

West took the stage for the second act and thought nothing more of it until he heard a small commotion and saw "flakes of fire" fall around him. Another actor, Mr. Robertson, ran out on stage and announced the fire, but another voice quickly rang out assuring the audience that the alarm was false. Within four to five minutes however the roof had caught fire, filling the house with thick black smoke, and panic spread through the crowd as everyone started to try to escape.

The Theatre on Fire
The Theatre on Fire

The fire quickly began to spread to the oil-painted canvas-wrapped walls and boxes. While the stage and gallery had their own exits, those Patrons who sat in the boxes, were forced to navigate dark, narrow hallways and descend a single narrow, winding staircase before exiting out the front door on the south end of the building. Future Mayor of Richmond, Robert Greenhow, Sr., sitting in the third box from the stage with his wife and son, described the chaos among the box-seat patrons as follows:

“At Robinson’s cry, Mary Ann turned to me and begged, “Save my child!” I caught my Son up, and in a minute pressed to Suffocation we were Immovably planted in the midst of a pressing, overwhelming throng, where for the space I suppose of 4 minutes we were; then with him in my arms thrown to the floor. While thus prostrate a blast of flame & smoke was inhaled by us both and so great was its Influence that my arms let go their hold, My son in a convulsive throe wrested himself from my grasp & exclaimed, “Oh Father! I am dying!” This roused me from my state of almost Insensibility. My reply was, “My Son, I will die with you!” Dark as midnight, my hand involuntarily seized the skirt of his coat. I got him again in my hold. While we were kicked to the head of the Stair case, finding myself there still prostrate, not being able to rise, I gave my Body a Sudden Impulse that carried us over the Dead & dying Bodies & pieces of flaming wood that the steps were crowded with, and in that manner, with [my son] in my arms, got to the lower floor, when, reanimated by the air rushing in at the Doors, I got up & most miraculously, & unhurt, placed myself & child out of Danger.”

By some accounts, it only took three minutes for the flames to spread from the stage to the boxes, and suffocating smoke rolled through the theater. Fed on turpentine, resin, varnish, and hemp, it was an opaque, sooty strain of “bituminous smoke” that ended all visibility in the upper floors. As the heat rose, a bulls-eye window on the uppermost part of the exterior wall supplied oxygen from the fresh night air, sucking in a strong draft through the convection effect and encouraging the flames.

Those in the box seats alert enough to push through a smoke-induced stupor, and the mob in the lobbies, found themselves in a narrow stairway where the panicked flow of traffic was completely stopped. In the attempt to escape, people scrambled over the fainting, stepping on heads and shoulders to fight their way either up or down the stairs. As the heat increased and the flames ate away at the wooden supports, the stairs, where the majority of escaping theatergoers had congregated, collapsed, stranding dozens on the upper stories and killing a number of those crammed into the stairwell.

In the midst of an “awful horror and desperation that beggars all description,” several people trapped on the second floor groped their way along the side of the building toward windows, smashed them out, and regained coherence from the fresh air. Pushing toward the open windows, patrons desperate to escape the inferno, began jumping two stories to the ground below. The resourceful Carter Page “saved his wife by splitting her Pelisse [a coat-like dress typically worn over a longer cotton dress] and tying the dress so as to form a rope by which he got her down from the window and followed her at the expense of a broken leg.”

Those trapped within the mass of humanity several yards from the windows felt the heat surge behind them, singeing their hair and blistering their skin. Eyewitnesses saw them “catching on fire and writhing in the greatest agonies of pain and distress”. They pushed desperately, toward the windows ahead, their force pushing those in front of them out the windows. Victims fell clinging to each other, slipping on the sill, and plummeting in flames, like meteors crashing to earth. In the space of about ten minutes, the theater became quiet, except for the sound of the crackling flames. By morning, the theater nothing but a few blackened, crumbling walls surrounded by piles of charred bodies and smoking timbers. Over seventy people were dead.

Gilbert Hunt

Amid all of this there were also heroes. One such hero was an enslaved black by the name of Gilbert Hunt. Hunt was born a slave in King William County in 1780. The names of his parents are unknown. His owner, whose name is also unknown, ran a tavern and was, according to Hunt's recollection, "a gentleman of considerable wealth." At some point, Hunt went with the tavern keeper's daughter to Richmond, where her new husband had a business building carriages. Hunt trained as a blacksmith and was sold at least twice over the next few decades but remained in Richmond.

African American Hero Gilbert Hunt
African American Hero Gilbert Hunt

On December 26, 1811, Hunt heroically rescued several people from the Richmond theater fire. In 1931, an article in the Richmond News Leader recounted the event:

“On that dreadful night Hunt had just returned to his home from a service at the old Baptist church when he was startled by the news that the theater was burning. His wife’s mistress called him and begged him to hasten to the scene, and if possible, save her only daughter…Arriving at the scene of the fire, he secured a ladder and placed it against the walls of the fast-burning building. Just at this time he looked up and saw Dr. McCaw standing near one of the windows of the doomed building. Dr. McCaw called to Hunt and told him to “catch the ladies as he handed them down”. The flames by this time were rapidly approaching the doctor and beginning to take hold of his clothing. Dr. McCaw at length let himself down from the window as best he could, but fell sustaining a fracture of his leg, which made him lame for the balance of his life. He was dragged to a place of safety by Gilbert Hunt scarcely a moment before one of the walls fell exactly on the spot where he had been lying”.

There are no exact numbers on the people saved by the efforts of Gilbert Hunt and Dr. McCaw.

During the War of 1812, Hunt worked for the US Army. He made carriages for cannons, grappling hooks for boarding vessels, pickaxes, and horseshoes. "We worked night and day, not even stopping to rest on the Sabbath day ... During all this time, my master gave me complete control of the whole shop," he said. In 1823, Hunt signed on with the Richmond volunteer fire brigade and was present at another major fire, this one at the State Penitentiary. He helped break the bars to rescue 224 prisoners trapped inside.

Hunt longed to be free and by December 1829, he had saved enough money to buy his own freedom. Independent, and relatively well-off, Hunt joined a colonization movement among free blacks. Soon after he bought his freedom, he boarded the schooner Harriet and sailed for Liberia returning to Richmond eight months later. After returning to Richmond, he resumed blacksmithing and served as an outspoken, sometimes-controversial deacon in the First African Baptist Church. In 1848 he helped form the Union Burial Ground Society. It is possible however, that the heroic story of Gilbert Hunt would have never been told had it not been for a biography, mostly using Hunt’s own words, written by Richmond author Philip Barrett in 1859.

The Aftermath

Richmond’s mass funeral for the theater fatalities was the following Sunday. Citizens, clad in black, gathered in the streets on that winter day. The funeral procession began on Main Street and ended at the site of the fire, only two blocks northeast of the Capitol building. An observer of the funeral wrote,

“The whole scene defies description. A whole city bathed in tears!—How awful the transition on this devoted spot!—A few days since, it was the theatre of joy and merriment—animated by the sound of music and the hum of a delighted multitude. It is now a funeral pyre! the receptacle of the relics of our friends!

Religious commemorations began that week. Richmond’s City Hall made a public call for Wednesday, the first of January 1812, to be an official day of humiliation and prayer. Stores were shuttered and churches were opened. Other cities also observed a day of “fasting and humiliation”, after the Richmond fire. In an address to the legislature printed in the paper, one Virginian said,

“The sympathy which was excited was as general as the calamity was awful. It drew forth the feelings of a nation. It caused us to feel that we were all of one family—from Boston to Savannah, the sentiment spread with a rapidity, unprecedented in the American Annals”.

Civic groups and state governments in Ohio, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Georgia, South Carolina, New York, and Pennsylvania offered Virginians official expressions of sympathy and solidarity.

Copy of Rev. Hill's Sermon
Copy of Rev. Hill's Sermon

In Winchester’s Presbyterian meetinghouse, Reverend Hill gave a message during their day of fasting and prayer explaining why spiritual exercises were necessary after a catastrophe:

If when God sends judgments upon others we do not take the warning; if, when instead of reflecting upon ourselves, and trying our own ways, we turn our eyes from the sight, and shut our ears upon the voice: then we leave the Almighty no other way to awaken us, and bring us to the consideration of our evil ways, but by pouring down his wrath upon our own heads, that so he may convince us that we are sinners, by the same argument from which we have concluded others to be so.”

Catastrophes redirect people's focus from the temporal to the eternal. After 9/11, many confused and mourning individuals that formerly had little thought of God went to churches seeking answers to their questions. The Richmond Theatre fire was no different. The citizens of Richmond chose to memorialize the dead, and the memory of the fire influenced the city and nation for a long time afterwards.

John Holt Rice
John Holt Rice

Before the fire, there were few churches in Richmond for a city of its size. John Holt Rice, future pastor of Richmond’s First Presbyterian Church, noted that in 1811, “There was at least no regularly organized [Episcopal or Presbyterian] church . . . in [Richmond], or none that was visible, but all of both of them who retained any respect for religion went together to hear a sermon, in the forenoon only of every Sunday, in the Hall of the House of Delegates, in the Capitol. Baptists and Methodists had more sizeable congregations in Richmond, but only compared to the Presbyterians and Episcopalians”. Possibly reflecting a desire for greater numbers, Baptist historian Robert Baylor Semple noted that Baptists were “not the most flourishing sect” in 1810, although they surpassed Richmond’s other denominations with five hundred and sixty members, both black and white. In 1812, the Methodist Richmond Circuit had a membership of two hundred and fifty-six whites and forty-seven “colored members”. The membership of Richmond’s churches in total was less than ten percent of the city population

In the aftermath of the fire, the ministries of Episcopalians, Baptists, Methodists, and Presbyterians grew immensely. In May of 1812, John Holt Rice once again arrived in town as an evangelist. He wrote to his friend, Reverend Dr. Archibald Alexander of Princeton University,

“I was surprised to observe the very great numbers who attend church in this place. Every house of worship was crowded; and I was told that not less than five hundred went away from the Mason’s Hall (where I preached,) unable to find seats. A spirit of reading, and of inquiry for religious truth, is spreading rapidly among our town folks”.

There were many sermons delivered across the nation following the fire and in some of them the catastrophe was related to what were known as “worldly amusements”. Such amusements included, among others, social dancing, card playing, games of chance, and attending the theater. Remember that the theater in this era was not always considered a proper place for Christians because they could vary in propriety from base dives and gratuitous indecency to more acceptable forms such as the performance presented by Placide and Green Company in the Richmond theater the night of the fire

Archibald Alexander
Archibald Alexander

One such sermon was Archibald Alexander’s, later published in a pamphlet titled, A Discourse Occasioned by the Burning of the Theatre in the City of Richmond, Virginia. His text was the second half of Romans 12:15, “Weep with them that weep”. After several pages of compassionate comments and encouragement directed to those who were mourning, he transitioned into the subject of worldly amusements. Alexander expressed reluctance to broach the topic but since some had asked him to do so, he made a few comments that fill less than two pages. He did not target the theater, but worldly amusements in general, commenting that they were “unfriendly to piety”. The overall tone of the discourse is pastoral, and Alexander is reserved in his comments on entertainment. His primary concern was to bring comfort to his listeners as they suffered through the fire’s aftermath, challenge Christians to commit to better service for the Lord and call the unbelieving to faith.

In Richmond, there was much debate about the fire and what to do with the site. On December 28th, the Common Council decided that since,

“the remains of their unfortunate fellow-citizens who perished in the conflagration of the Theatre, on the night of the twenty-sixth instant, cannot with convenience be removed from the spot on which they were found, and some of them were so far consumed as to fall to ashes, and that it would be more satisfactory to their relations that they should be interred on the spot where they perished, and that the site of the Theatre should be consecrated as the sacred deposit of their bones and ashes..."

Monumental Church in Richmond
Monumental Church in Richmond

After several months of further debate, the city leaders finally decided to build a church as a monument to the dead on the exact spot where the tragic fire took place. Below is an excerpt from the ordinance outlining that decision.

"WHEREAS, It has been represented to this Hall by the committee appointed to superintend the erection of a monument on the site of the late Theatre, that an arrangement, pleasing to them and conducive to the object contemplated by the Hall, may be made with the 'Association for building a church on Shockoe Hill' in this city, whereby it is proposed to unite all sums of money which were intended to be applied to the erection of a monument with the funds of the aforesaid Association, which aggregate sum shall be applied to the purpose of purchasing the whole lot of ground whereon the Theatre lately stood, and of erecting thereon a monmental[sic] church, under the direction and control of the persons who have been made known to this Hall as being acceptable to all the parties;”

Chief Justice John Marshall commissioned a church to replace the Richmond Theatre as a monument, and architect Robert Mills, the first American-born architect designed it. Mills was the architect of the Washington Monuments in both Baltimore and Washington, DC. He also later designed many buildings in South Carolina as superintendent of public buildings. Mills "had a reputation for being particularly concerned with fireproofing."

Architect Robert Mills
Architect Robert Mills

Mill's plan consisted of "an emphatic 'monumental porch'"—thirty-two feet square - grafted onto an auditorium-style church. The porch, which Mills called the "vestibule, dominates the south elevation, and fronts upon the street. The body of the church is an octagon, one side of which abuts the rear of the monumental porch. Within the church, directly across from the doorway, the pulpit stands within an acoustically conceived apse, which balances the porch. This bay projects from the northern face of the octagon, intended to serve as the base of the steeple which was never built. To the east and west project corresponding bays; these hold stairways to the balcony that circumscribes the interior, except the pulpit apse on the north face of the nave. A low saucer dome caps the nave, and its center is pierced by a round monitor or cupola. The building consists of two parts: a crypt and a church. The crypt is located beneath the sanctuary and holds the remains of those who died in the fire.

So, What About Ghost Stories?

As we began this article talking about Christmas season ghost stories, it is only fitting that we should circle back around to the subject. Richmond is not particularly haunted; while, through the years, there have been numerous reports of Civil War ghosts north and south of the city, and repeated sightings of the apparitions of long-passed aristocracy on plantations to the east, few well-documented spirits remain in the city proper.

L. B. Taylor Jr., author of The Ghosts of Richmond agrees the capital city seems to be spectrally challenged. In all his extensive research — including poking around under the Monumental Church, shrine to the dozens who died in the awful theater fire of 1811 — he has yet to experience firsthand the wrath of a Richmond wraith. Taylor theorizes that, compared to hauntings elsewhere, the city's better-bred spirits have had the good manners not to inflict themselves on posterity, to overstay their welcome.

On the other hand, many church workers have confessed to having eerie experiences at Monumental Church. There have been voices heard coming from the balcony of the church and unexplained noises as well. Many of the doors slam shut without anyone being around them and some of the doors will open and close freely. Church workers have told stories of leaving their tools in one spot, only to have the tools disappear and reappear in a completely different place. Some workers have heard heavy footsteps in the church, and some of them were so scared, that they never returned to Monumental Church ever again. Caretakers have mentioned that motion detectors have gone off at random times without a person in sight. One paranormal researcher came back with some audio he claims is an unidentified woman saying, “come up here”. If you are interested in this sort of thing, Haunts of Richmond includes Monumental Church in their “Capitol Hill” tour. Perhaps a December 26th tour would be in order????

I hope you found this article on one of the worst holiday-season disasters in the early history of the United States – the Richmond Theatre Fire of 1811. If you enjoyed this post, please take a moment to join our blog community (Look for the button in the upper right-hand corner of this post). This will allow you post comments to let me know your thoughts on our articles, suggest new subjects for future articles, and allow us to inform you when we post new articles. Please be assured that the Norfolk Towne Assembly never shares our community members information with outside entities except as required by law. I also invite you to return to our blog home page and sample some of our earlier articles on a variety of subjects.

Finally, if you live in Virginia or North Carolina, I would invite you to visit The Norfolk Towne Assembly’s home page to learn more about us, what we do, and how you can get involved in our efforts.


Devlin, Daniel F. "Signaling Through the Flames: Theatre Fires and Disaster Sociology." Dissertation. University of Kansas, 2015.

Eschner, Kat. Why Do People Tell Ghost Stories on Christmas? 23 December 2016. 16 November 2020. <>.

Henne, Meredith Margaret. ""Miraculously Saved": Richmond and the 1811 Theatre Fire." Thesis. College of William & Mary, 2007.

Joynes, Thomas R. "The Burning of the Richmond Theatre; A Letter from Thomas R. Joynes to Levin S. Joynes." Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 51.3 (1943): 297-300.

Kappatos, Nicole. The Story of Gilbert Hunt. 13 December 2015. 17 November 2020. <>.

Mann, Dionna L. Gilbert Hunt (ca. 1780-1863). n.d. Virginia Humanities. 17 November 2020. <>.

Morano, Rob. Glimpses of the ghosts of Richmond past. 01 January 1980. 16 November 2020. <>.


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