On December 6, 2012, Meredith Henne Baker delivered a Banner Lecture entitled “The 1811 Richmond Theater Fire.”
On the day after Christmas in 1811, the state of Virginia lost its governor and almost one hundred citizens in a devastating nighttime fire that consumed a Richmond playhouse. The tragic Richmond Theater fire would inspire a national commemoration and become its generation’s defining disaster. In The Richmond Theater Fire, the first book about the event and its aftermath, Meredith Henne Baker explores a forgotten catastrophe and its wide societal impact. The story of transformation comes alive through survivor accounts of slaves, actresses, ministers, and statesmen. Investigating private letters, diaries, and sermons, among other rare or unpublished documents, Baker views the event and its outcomes through the fascinating lenses of early nineteenth-century theater, architecture, and faith and reveals a rich and vital untold story from America's past.
Meredith Henne Baker, an independent scholar, lives in Washington, D.C. (Introduction by Paul Levengood)