Original Ritz Theatre
The Ritz Theatre and Museum is a Downtown Jacksonville cultural destination that highlights the city’s rich black culture, heritage and history. Opening its doors in 1999, the mission of the Ritz is to “research, record, and preserve the material and artistic culture of African American life in Northeast Florida and the African Diaspora, and present it in an educational or entertaining format, showcasing the many facets that make up the historical and cultural legacy of this community.”
Located at the intersection of Davis and State Streets, the Ritz Theatre and Museum was built on the site of the former Ritz Theater. Completed in September 1929, the original Ritz Theatre was designed by architect Jefferson Powell with a blend of Art Deco, Mediterranean Revival and Egyptian Revival architectural styles. Operated by Neil Witschen, the 970-seat theatre quickly became one of Florida’s premier Chitlin’ Circuit destinations and LaVilla’s primary performance venue until its closure in 1972.
During the late 1980s, the Ritz Theatre District Inc., was formed by Anthonee Patterson as a non-profit organization to save the building from demolition. After a decade of effort, $4.2 million was secured from River City Renaissance bond package funds, private and government sources to construct a new theater and an 11,000-square foot African-American history museum behind the exterior northwest corner marquee of the original building. Two decades later, the Ritz Theatre continues to serve as a major cultural attraction and must see destination for local black history in the downtown core.
The Ritz Theatre and Museum
Inside the Ritz Theatre
The 426 seat Ritz Theatre is used for concerts, plays, comedy shows, musicals, community events and more.
Inside the Museum
The Ritz is home to an 11,000 square foot museum that highlights the history of Jacksonville’s African American community. The museum features a changing exhibit space for short term and traveling exhibits. In addition, it includes a permanent exhibit paying homage to James Weldon and John Rosamond Johnson and Jacksonville’s early African American community.