First developed by local entrepreneur Al Jackson and designed in the Egyptian Revival style by architect Carl Anderson, The Ogden Theatre and Ballroom opened on November 26, 1928. It was soon a nexus of excitement, entertainment and community life in the predominantly African-American neighborhood known as the King-Lincoln District on the city’s near east side. The Ogden was renamed the Lincoln Theatre in 1939 and continued to operate as a movie theatre and a nationally recognized hotspot for jazz. The 1960s and ’70s brought change and upheaval. Major highway construction cut off the King-Lincoln District from downtown and displaced more than 10,000 residents. The theatre was forced to shut its doors. The Lincoln sat empty for three decades incurring such damage as to be threatened with demolition. Repairs to the outer building saved the theatre, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1992.
More than just a building, the Lincoln Theatre had served as an anchor in the King-Lincoln District inspiring pride, hope and aspiration. Columbus Mayor Michael B. Coleman believed it could again serve as a catalyst for change and renewal. With a clarion call that engaged the hearts, minds, and imaginations of city and county leadership, local businesses, and Columbus citizens, Mayor Coleman announced the King-Lincoln District would be revitalized, and in 2002 the City of Columbus purchased the property. The newly renovated Lincoln Theatre opened its doors with a free public open house on May 25, 2009, following a $13 million renovation. Attendees from across the state marveled at the meticulously restored Egyptian-themed decorative elements and the completely modern facilities, seating, and stage equipment. Three days later on May 28, 2009, Broadway star Maurice Hines inaugurated the new Lincoln Theatre with a sold-out performance.
The Lincoln Theatre has re-emerged as a vital player on Columbus’ cultural landscape, hosting events nearly seven days a week. From programs geared to underserved youths and training opportunities for college students, to hosting recognized and emerging performers, national corporate brands, and neighborhood events, the Lincoln Theatre is the picture of vitality and a model of revitalization—fulfilling a pressing need in the community and serving as a symbol of hope and vision for the future.