21. Howard Theatre
City: Washington, D.C.
Address: 620 T St. NW
Coolest Feature: The huge television screens by the stage
Just down the street from Howard University in Northwest D.C., the "Theater of the People" opened its historic doors in 1910, providing a stage for the likes of James Brown, Aretha Franklin, and Stevie Wonder. After withstanding the Great Depression, damage from riots following Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination and despit being added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 1974, it seemingly shut its doors for good in 1980. At the time of its closure, it was the U.S.'s oldest venue featuring black artists. For 30 years, it sat on T Street, slowly rotting away before a $29 million renovation plan was launched in 2010. The money was well spent, as the Howard Theatre made its triumphant return in April 2012 with a welcome back concert powered by native son Wale.
The restored Howard Theatre is the brightest building in the area, sporting a glorious exterior that now draws stares because of its beauty. Inside, patrons are greeted by portraits of famous performers before walking into the main room. The second level features orchestra-style seating and the $2 million sound system blasts music throughout the entire venue. There are two full bars on each level and huge television screens that singer Amel Larrieux says add to the building's "fancy, schmancy" aura. Larrieux, who's appeared at the Howard Theatre several times since its reopening, told us it's one of her favorite places to perform.
When Chuck Brown, the Godfather of Go-Go music passed away last year, his viewing was held at the Howard Theatre, a true testament to the building's deep roots within the community. D.C. legends who have passed on including Brown and Marvin Gaye would be proud if they saw the Howard Theatre today.