Virginia Memory, Library of Virginia
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THIS DAY IN VIRGINIA HISTORY

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December 26, 1811

Charles Copland, Diary, 1788–1823, Accession 22236, Personal Papers Collection, Library of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia. Charles Copland, Diary, 1788–1823, Accession 22236, Personal Papers Collection, Library of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia. Charles Copland, Diary, 1788–1823, Accession 22236, Personal Papers Collection, Library of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia. Charles Copland, Diary, 1788–1823, Accession 22236, Personal Papers Collection, Library of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia. Charles Copland, Diary, 1788–1823, Accession 22236, Personal Papers Collection, Library of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia. Charles Copland, Diary, 1788–1823, Accession 22236, Personal Papers Collection, Library of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia.

Richmond Theater Caught Fire

On the evening of December 26, 1811, a crowded theater caught fire in Richmond, killing more than seventy-two people, including Governor George William Smith (1762–1811). Others were injured leaping from the burning building. Richmond resident Charles Copland (ca. 1756–1836) recorded in his diary how he entered the burning building in an unsuccessful attempt to find and rescue his daughter. Monumental Church was designed by architect Robert Mills (1781–1855) and built between 1812 and 1814 on the site of the theater to memorialize the victims of the fire. It served an Episcopal congregation until 1965 and is now a National Historic Landmark.