The National Theatre first opened in 1835, supported by some of D.C.’s wealthiest patrons, who wanted their city to have a world-class theatrical institution. In the wake of the 1922 collapse of the nearby Knickerbocker movie theater during a snowstorm, the vintage limestone building was redesigned and reinforced for safety; its interior remained largely unchanged until a full-scale renovation in 1984. This renovation, quite fittingly, was overseen by a theater production set designer.
Since its original opening, virtually every great theater star has performed at the National, and a box on the left side of the stage has hosted every president and his wife; Abraham Lincoln and Eleanor Roosevelt were particular fans of the plays presented here. Today, the stage at this elegant, 1,676-seat theater hosts some of the biggest productions on Broadway.