Gresham turned a commercial building fire disaster to an advantage, with a rebuilding scheme that added 60% more building volume to the same site at one-third less cost than duplicating the original.

Wells Theatre Renovations

The theatre opened on August 26, 1913, with a production of The Merry Countess, and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. In its rich history, the Wells has hosted many of America’s leading performers including Fred Astaire, and Will Rogers. Today, The Wells Theatre/ Virginia Stage Company continues to play an important role in the Hampton Roads Community, bringing top level performances for residents to enjoy. ET Gresham Company is a proud supporter and excited to have been a part in the multiple phases to bring the theatre back to life!


Phase 1 renovations to the Historic Wells Theatre in downtown Norfolk aimed to enhance the functionality, aesthetics, and overall experience of the theater for both the audience and performers. It included improvements to the lobby, seating areas, and overall accessibility. This project also enhanced the theater’s technical capabilities, such as lighting and sound systems, to accommodate a wider range of performances and events. The goal was to modernize the theater while preserving its historical significance and to create a contemporary and enjoyable experience for the audience.


A new HVAC system was added to minimize noise near the stage area. Ductwork and air devices were reworked for more effective air distribution in the seating area. Provisions were made to achieve improved comfort control between the lobby and the auditorium.


E.T. Gresham updated the fly loft at the Wells Theatre where scenery, lighting, and rigging equipment are stored and operated. It is typically used for flying in and out set pieces, curtains, and other elements during a performance.

This project involved the installation of a new rigging system. The job included the installation of truss battens and an ETC Foundation Rigging Control System and the removal of the existing line-shaft hoists.

In addition to the rigging system, we also installed a new main curtain and valance, which is manually operated but re-rigged to improve loading/unloading conditions. In addition, the installation of a motorized fire curtain, ladder cages, railing, and tie-off points were included to improve safety.


Our latest renovation included updating and refurbishing more than 670 seats for the audience which include approximately 4” more in width. Raceway lighting and the installation of new carpet on the 1st and 2nd floor complement the well-preserved Beaux-Arts neoclassicism style.

The state-of-the-art Audio System with hearing assistance ensures that everyone can enjoy all that the Wells Theatre has to offer. We have enjoyed our partnership to assist in maintaining, the reformation, and functionality of this elegant and unique venue.

See you at the Wells!

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