Many of you have heard speculation that the Dumas Center for Artistic and Cultural Development is for sale. This is indeed true. The building is currently on the market for the list price of $1,075,000.
In the early 1990s, at the request of then Mayor Noel C. Taylor, TAP agreed to take ownership of the former Hotel Dumas on Henry Street in order to save it from demolition. The decades after World War II were not kind to Henry Street, which suffered greatly due to the decline of the railroads (the Norfolk & Western railroad was a major employer in Roanoke and fueled the area’s growth), changing demographics, and misguided urban renewal. Redlining and disinvestment hindered the survival of the once-thriving neighborhood. As part of our continued community development efforts, the agency decided to spearhead the effort to transform the Dumas into a music and arts center, returning it to its former purpose as a place of cultural exchange.
The renovations were completed in two phases: Phase one was funded by a $212,000 loan from the City of Roanoke (later forgiven) and a $600,000 grant from the Department of Health and Human Services. The funds were used to remove asbestos, shore up walls, and create a usable stage, kitchen, and restrooms. Phase two cost over $4 million and was funded by a variety of sources, including New Markets and Federal Historic Tax Credits, grants and donations from the broad community. Additionally, TAP invested $821,574 of its own resources in the facility. The end result is that today the Dumas has been fully renovated into a state-of-the-art, 178-seat theater conducive for musicals, plays, workshops, offices and community events.
The Dumas has played—and continues to play—a role in the neighborhood’s rebirth by attracting interest and investment while preserving the neighborhood’s legacy through observance and celebration of its cultural identity. Since its renovation, a number of positive changes have taken place. Organizations —both arts-related and not—have called the Dumas home and the surrounding streets are experiencing a renaissance of residential, institutional, and commercial redevelopment. The redevelopment includes the renovation of a landmark facility, the Ebony Club, which is now the Claude Moore Education Complex. Additionally, TAP advocated along with the Roanoke Branch of the NAACP and the Roanoke Valley SCLC to build the high quality Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Statue.
The decision to sell the Dumas Center was not an easy one. We—I, the Board of Directors, TAP staff—recognize its importance in Roanoke’s, and more specifically Henry Street’s history. Built in 1917, the Dumas was a hot spot for entertainers traveling through Roanoke’s Henry Street District—the hub of an African American neighborhood also known as “The Yard”—during the district’s rise throughout the 1930s. During the Dumas’ prime, performers such as Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Ella Fitzgerald, Lena Horn, Lionel Hampton, and many more visited to entertain one of the few integrated crowds in western Virginia. Aside from the entertainment taking place downstairs, the hotel was one of the only lodging establishments in the area that accommodated black travelers during the Jim Crow era.
With all of its rich history, why is TAP selling the property? TAP wants to pay off the remaining loan debt and recover as much of our investment as possible. TAP’s mission is to help individuals and families achieve economic and personal independence through education, employment, affordable housing and safe and healthy environments. The sale of the Dumas will allow us to focus our attention and resources on programs that are vital to our community and fall in line with our mission.
Many times throughout its history, TAP has taken on a program, or in the case of the Dumas Center, a very important project, nurtured its development and growth, and then handed it over to capable hands. We feel that now is the right time to do that with the Dumas. It is our desire to sell the Dumas to an individual, organization or group whose mission aligns with the purpose of this beautifully renovated facility. We are confident that the Dumas will continue to be a reminder of the rich history and culture of its community.
Anyone interested in more information about the sale of the Dumas Center should contact 540-855-3654.
Annette Lewis, CEO of Total Action for Progress: