Old Ontario Theatre Completely Demolished on Columbia Road

1700 Columbia Rd, NW looking east

Well it’s all gone now. You can have a look at the rendering for future condos here. You can read an awesome history about the Ontario Theatre from Streets of Washington here. And check out a photo from 1994 here.

1700 Columbia Rd, NW looking west

18 Comment

  • This was one old theater that sadly had few allies for preservation, I guess. I’d rather have that dumpy old discount store back than some ugly condos that nobody in the neighborhood will be able to afford, anyway.

  • Bring on the Gentrification….. The blocks between 18th and 16th street need it.

    • +1. I don’t want to see a single stinking working-class immigrant family on that block ever again! Only yuppie millionaires.

      • +1. Anon @ 10:25 gets it.

      • Yes because all immigrants are poor and only yuppies earn enough to afford a respectable living. I find it incredibly offensive that some people think that just because something is expensive somehow blacks/hispanics will not be able to afford it. Furthermore, you can have your landscaping or contracting business and make more money than a lawyer or doctor.

        These “defenders” of the poor are certainly more prejudiced than the free market.

        • I think your wild idealism has blurred your sight of reality, because if you think there are going to be a lot of middle class immigrant families living in this building, then I have a bridge to sell you.

          • It looks like the drug peddlers and 17th and Euclid crowd are gonna have to find a new spot to loiter.

          • I seriously doubt that this will have any effect whatsoever on the 17th and Euclid hoodlums. Nothing else has ever pushed them along.

        • To be fair, Anon 10:25 specifically said “working-class” immigrant families, not immigrants in general or any other racial/ethnic group in general. “Working-class” is generally understood to mean blue collar-type occupations that pay modestly, in most cases (and some might extend that term to occupations in the service sector). “Working-class” people can be of any race or national origin. So can “yuppie millionaires.” No one said all immigrants or blacks/Latinos or poor or that no immigrants or blacks/Latinos are wealthy. Realistically, when you look at some of the nearby neighborhoods like Adams Morgan, Columbia Heights, and Mt. Pleasant, there are a number of Spanish-speaking residents who have settled there. (On an individual basis, one couldn’t presume someone is an immigrant without asking that individual about their national origin–plenty of native-born individuals speak Spanish, too–but I suspect Census data would show that many of these residents are immigrants.) For residents who settled there pre-gentrification and pre-condo boom, it is quite likely that a large part of what drew them to the neighborhood was lower-cost rent compared to other, more gentrified areas in DC. (Hell, that’s part of what drew *me* to the area, and I could probably be mistaken for one of the stereotypical yuppie residents.) I doubt many tenants in some of the more down-at-the-heels looking older apartment buildings are people who could afford million-dollar condos and are simply dealing with crappy rentals and neglectful landlords for the fun of it. It is an entirely reasonable assumption that this specific micro-demographic–not ALL immigrants or blacks/Latinos–would have a hard time affording some of the new housing that’s being constructed in the neighborhood (as would I).

  • I was initially sad, but as the demolition progressed and you could see inside the theater, it was clear that the inside was beyond saving. I used to think it would have made a great restaurant space, but it was definitely a teardown.

    • I always dreamed it would be restored to a working movie theater. How nice would it be to have a theater like the Uptown in the neighborhood?

  • Finally this abandoned eyesore is torn down.

  • Does anyone know if The Ontario drew any decent acts back in the 80s? I read somewhere that it used to be a hotspot for punk shows. Just the thought of seeing Husker Du or The Replacements in their heyday there seems pretty cool.

    • saf

      My roommate say Frankie Goes to Hollywood there.

      I used to go to the movies there.

      I’ll try to remember what other shows came there.

    • According to the link in the original post, there was Blondie, U2, the Police, R.E.M., and the Clash, among others.

  • The comments here really crack me up. I’ve lived a block away near the “infamous 17th and Euclid” corner for 10 years. First of all, the Discount Store moved out about 5 years ago and the site has been a vacant eyesore ever since. Sorry that someone couldn’t make the economics work for a theatre but new condos with good retail space serving the neighborhood is totally welcome. And regarding 17th and Euclid, not sure what hoodlums are still around so much that people are referring to. The crew that resided at this corner is largely gone (and good riddance). Guess they weren’t interested in hanging out underneath the crime camera and next to the new $800,000 condos on the corner. And moving down 17th wasn’t a great option anymore with the huge Dorchester construction project. There’s an occasional “one step back” incident but things have changed drastically in the 10 years I’ve lived here. Maybe people are referring to the hanging out on the stoop of the corner house, but there is really not much to worry about there…And by the way, I’m a “hispanic” who can afford to own my home here! LOL

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