Morocco night club

Known Name(s)

Morocco night club


109 N. Henry Roanoke, VA

Physical Status



This two-story brick building features brick quoins that separate the three bays and a heavy comice with modillions below the brick parapet. Brick soldier rows and stuccoed end blocks accent the window openings on the second story. The first story originally featured offices and retail spaces. 

Detailed History

The Morocco Night Club Club was originally built as the Strand Theater. It was there, in the early to mid 1920s, that one of the first African-American filmmakers, Oscar Micheaux, had an office for his production company, the Oscar Micheaux Film Corporation. After producing several films in Roanoke, Micheaux moved to New York to continue producing and the Strand Theater took a new name “The Lincoln Theater.” The theater eventually became the Morocco Club and the Ebony Club, which were African-American dance clubs serving the surrounding Gainsboro neighborhood. The urban renewal of the 1960s and 1970s marked the decline of the central business district of Henry Street and the eventual closing of the once vibrant Club.

The Strand Theater is a contributing structure listed in the Henry Street Historic District National Register nomination: "The Strand Theatre was constructed at 109 Henry Street in 1922-1923 by Albert F. Brooks and C. Tiffany Tolliver, members of the same corporation that owned the Hampton Theatre. The original announcement of the theater's construction indicated that it would be named "The Dunbar" and would have a seating capacity of 1,000 with an estimated cost between $15,00 and $20,000 (The Roanoke Times, 811 111922). A later announcement of its opening in a Pittsburgh paper on September 3, 1922 referred to the theater as "The Strand" and reported that the "new theater has a capacity of 703 persons, is handsomely decorated and equipped with organ and modem projecting machines" (Bamett: files). After closing as a movie theater in 1933, the theater became a venue for some of the best-known jazz and rock-and-roll musicians of the time. The theater was subsequently known as the Lincoln, (1930s), the Morocco Club in the 1950s and the Ebony Club from the 1960s to the present. While playing at the theater or other locations in Roanoke, the majority of these great African-American jazz musicians and other entertainers stayed at the Hotel Dumas over the years, including Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Fats Waller, and Ethel Waters, Cab Calloway, Lionel Hampton, Fats Domino, Dizzy Gillespie and the Harlem Globetrotters. The influence of the theatericlub can also be seen in the establishment of the Kaiser Music Store at 105 Henry Street in the late 1950s. After standing vacant for a number of years, the theater building was purchased by its present owner, the Roanoke Redevelopment and Housing Authority. The Ebony Club was listed on the Most Endangered Sites list by the Roanoke Valley Preservation Foundation and the Preservation Alliance of Virginia in 2000.

The Strand Theatre played another significant role in black history as the location of Oscar Micheaux's film company between 1924 and 1925. Micheaux was one of the nation's first black filmmakers with his own film production and distribution company. Micheaux began his career as a film writer, producer and distributor in 1919 with the debut of his first film "The Homesteader." In 1921, Micheaux made his first trip to Roanoke and began making films on location in the neighborhood in 1922. He operated the Oscar Micheaux Film Corporation out of the Strand Theater from 1924 until 1925. Local investors in the film company included Albert F. Brooks, C. Tiffany Tolliver, W.B.F. Crowell, J.T. Hughes, W.B. Hunter, and The Pentecost family (Barnett and Kern). During the period 1922-1925, he made a total of eight films using nationally known as well as local actors and settings from the Gainsboro neighborhood (Bamett and Kern; Preservation Alliance of Virginia: 13). After leaving Roanoke for New York, he went on to make approximately 35 films that provided non-stereotypical portrayals of AfricanAmerican life before his career ended in 1948. Micheaux has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and the Producers Guild of American Film has honored him with an award in his name." 

According to historian Jordan Bell, in a May 2021 interview with Restoration Housing, Albert F. Brooks of Brooks Pharmacy built the Morocco, which locals in the Gainsboro community best knew as the Strand. Performers here included Dizzy Gillespie, Count Basie, Cab Calloway, Fats Domino, and Lena Horne. Most performers stayed at the nearby Dumas Hotel. Others who stayed at the Dumas included James Brown, Little Richard, Ella Fitzgerald, and Duke Ellington.

The three-block Henry Street held a variety of over 200 businesses and was a vibrant African-American community often compared to the Harlem Renaissance. Late 1960s, early 1970s urban renewal decimated the community. Properties were seized by eminent domain, buildings were bulldozed, and road changes cut Henry Street off from downtown Roanoke.

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