Designed by noted theater designer John Jacob Zink in the Art Deco Style, the Atlas Theater and Shops were an iconic part of the H Street NE Corridor for 30 years. The building is identifiable through its Art Deco elements, such as zigzag ornamentation on the steel and glass marquee and a vertically aligned neon sign.
Constructed in 1938, the Atlas Theater constituted a gateway to the magical realms of Hollywood movies, and offered daily matinee and evening performances. The surrounding shops contributed to the thriving commercial center of H Street NE, and streetcar lines brought new customers as transportation became more accessible throughout the city in the 1940s and 1950s.
In 1968, the riots that followed Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination devastated H Street’s thriving businesses, including the Atlas. Despite offering movies on the weekends, the theater closed in 1976 and stayed vacant until renovations in 2004. The surrounding shops remained in business until the 1990s. Following rehabilitation of the space in the early 2000s, the storefront space reopened to once again serve the community.
The Atlas Theater is now home to the Atlas Performing Arts Center, a non-profit that provides performance space, theater events, and arts education on H Street.
DC Inventory: October 24, 2002
National Register: November 10, 2010