Thursday, December 15, 2011

Relda Cinema, Gone

What remained of the theater seating was piled off to be sold as scrap metal.

I was surprised and saddened to be driving down Tubman Boulevard in Sinkor on Saturday, 10 December, and come upon a gaping heap of twisted metal and broken concrete where one of the city's most beloved landmarks, the Relda Cinema, had sat forlorn for so many years.

Once a hotspot for the city's young crowd, and only one of several movie houses in Monrovia, which made the city seem so ultramodern in the midcentury (The Rivoli Cinema still stands on Broad Street, for the time being), the Relda had stood neglected and underused in the post-conflict period. It seemed that occasionally the theater was used as a cinema or other event space-- to charge for the viewing of video projects or sporting events. Monrovia doesn't have cinemas any more, merely video clubs, and even the former film palaces have been re-appropriated for the somewhat less grand past time.

Several bits of history were lost here, even if there is nothing remarkable in the 21st century about the Relda's rusted old truss frame, which provided a column-free theatre space, it is noteworthy that such technology was carefully employed so many decades ago in Liberia. The city surely has few other remaining examples. Likewise gone are a stately tree that stood in the front lot, along with a gold-painted statue, apparently called the Lappa Lady, which was reportedly removed by the original owner before the heavy machines were brought in.

Most frustratingly, no one bothered to save the gorgeous, vintage R-E-L-D-A letters from the from the building, the zinc cubes were likely torn by the backhoe and crushed by the concrete coming down on top.

Relda in its glory days, 1979. Image via

Why was they Relda torn down now? Reportedly for a multistory office, retail, and apartment complex, which is the recent or near-future makeover of about half the blocks facing Tubman Boulevard in Central Sinkor. With surety of title still woefully inept for much of Monrovia's real estate, and with the city continuing to enjoy a huge boom with the influx of foreign investment and their high-salaried, ex-pat packaged executives, Monrovia continues to experience a massive building wave, especially of high-rise, full-service apartment towers, much to the expense of its heritage and historic buildings.

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