The Source for Richmond Architecture and Design Information

Henrico Theater

Edward Francis Sinnott Sr.

305 E. Nine Mile Rd.


Taking the bus from central Richmond out Nine Mile Road to Highland Springs seems like traveling back in time. Located in a semi-rural patch of Eastern Henrico County, Highland Springs maintains the feel of a quaint, one-street town (despite suburban subdivisions and sprawling data centers metastasizing nearby). There are a handful of decent buildings on this stretch of Nine Mile, but one stands out clearly from rest.


The Henrico Theater is the undisputed architectural highlight of Highland Springs. Completed in 1938, this gleaming white art deco edifice always seems to have appeared from nowhere, no matter how many times you’ve seen it. With its dramatic symmetrical massing, crisp ornament, flashy marquee, and elegant typography, it would be worthy of note even if it were in Miami’s famous South Beach deco district, rather than this humble corner of greater Richmond.


The theater was designed by Edward Francis Sinnott Sr., who never received a formal architectural education. Instead, he trained under notable local architects including Duncan Lee, Marcellus Wright, and Charles M. Robinson, which seems to have been education enough, judging by this minor masterpiece. Sinnott designed buildings of many types over a long career, including many school buildings. But his most notable efforts were his theaters, including the Brookland Park Theater on Brookland Park Boulevard in Northside, the Robinson Theater in Church Hill, and the Walker Theater on Broad Street (now used by the Virginia Repertory Theater). 


Like the Henrico Theater, each of these buildings brings a glamorous sparkle to the corner of the city it occupies. With public gathering places like churches, theaters, and libraries struggling in a post-pandemic world, one wonders what kind of buildings might enliven and elevate the civic character of future neighborhoods. 


For now, thankfully, the Henrico Theater remains in use. Following a full renovation in 2007, the balcony level was converted into a multi-purpose community event space, reducing the original seat count of 782 to a more manageable 400. The main theater still shows movies regularly (for only $1.00!), conjuring up some of the magic that must have been in the air when the first movie to play at the Henrico, Sidney Lanfield’s Thin Ice, flickered onto the screen nearly a century ago.




To read about the Byrd Theater, the grandest of Richmond’s movie palaces, click here.

1 Comment

  • Selden Richardson

    Sinnott is also the designer of another small Deco jewel, the Richmond Community Hospital building on the campus of Virginia Union University, which is under attack by VUU in a program of demolition by neglect.

  • Write a Comment

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *