Historic Palace Theatre
The Historic Palace Theatre, where many GEAR Fine and Performing arts events and classes are held, is an excellent example of Art Deco, with its porthole glass paneled doors, upholstered interior walls, bucket lights, neon lighting, and exceptional hand-painted murals. When the Palace Theatre opened in 1942, it was hailed as one of the largest and most ornate picture theatres between Norfolk and Philadelphia. The terrazzo floors, walnut paneling, and ceiling-to-floor mirrors helped to complete its majesty.
The Palace was the embodiment of Cape Charles itself: at the time, a thriving community with tens of thousands of travelers arriving by train and ferry. With more than three hundred seats, the Palace lived up to its name as a spectacular cornerstone of the small town on the Chesapeake Bay, as it played some of the most celebrated motion pictures emerging from Hollywood.
With the opening of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel in 1964, Cape Charles was abandoned to its fate and withered from neglect and disrepair along with its theatre. Efforts to restore the Palace began in earnest with the incorporation of Arts Enter Cape Charles in 1997. Over $600,000 has been fundraised to restore this precious gem. New seats, restored murals, upgraded heating/cooling, new lighting, purchase of a grand Steinway piano, and renovated bathrooms are among the enhancements that helped return the theatre to its 1940s splendor and enjoyed by patrons today.
The theatre was sold to Dr. John and Clelia Sheppard in mid 2018 as part of the transition of Arts Enter shifting to the management of GEAR Fine and Performing Arts. With this new arrangement, the historic landmark will be sustained for generations to come as a venue for the arts and a center for the community to experience and witness culture.