Retro Richmond, dedicated to all things vintage and Richmond, managed to get a behind-the-scenes tour of the old Bellevue Theater — better known to Northside residents as the Samis Grotto on MacArthur Avenue.
In addition to tons of pictures, the Retro Richmond post includes lots of details about what entertainment on MacArthur Avenue (formerly Rappahanock Street) was like way back when, including:
The theater was designed by Henry Carl Messerschmidt and built in 1932
Located at 4028 Rappahannock Street (which became MacArthur Avenue after World War II), the Bellevue Theater was one of two movie showplaces in Northside.
The Ginter Theater, located down the block where Once Upon A Vine now stands, was the other. The Ginter had a short run as a movie palace before becoming a skating rink.
With its marble foyer and deco-patterned borders, the Bellevue played host to hundreds of patrons, including former Richmonders Warren Beatty and Shirley MacLaine.
Before the Bellevue closed in 1963, WRVA hosted a “Grand Ole Opry”-type show there and it’s rumored that some big country acts — like Sunshine Sue and Hank Williams — once graced the theater’s stage.