Connie Moses and the Ballroom that would Bear Her Name

April 4, 2024 by Sandy Lerebours

As people began to move out of city centers across the US, downtown areas were often left to crumble. Downtown Durham was no different. The Carolina Theatre of Durham had sat abandoned for some time and was on the chopping block to be destroyed. Connie and Monte Moses, along with a team of volunteers, took on the task of restoring the theater to its original beauty. In the process of uncovering the theater, Connie Moses reimagined what used to be a mezzanine lounge into a grand ballroom that would eventually bear her name.

Below is the story of the Connie Moses Ballroom, as told by the Moses’ elder daughter, Mollie Moses.

Before and after renovations of the Connie Moses Ballroom

Connie was entranced with the giant room upstairs. Up until the exploration of the building by Connie, Monte, and some of the people interested in bringing the building back to life, no one had even realized there WAS a room up there. Behind its rusty metal doors, the room had been a repository for papers, trash, seats, ticket stands, and other theatrical detritus.

After having gathered some volunteers to haul out a lot of the garbage and getting the city to take it away, she concentrated on getting the concrete blocks out of the giant upstairs room, which she began calling “the ballroom.”

The blocks had been put up in the late 50s/early 60s (I think) without mortar in order to form office buildings. I am given to understand that one of the offices had been that of Wallace Wade (Duke University football coach from 1931-1950). With my family not being in the least interested in sports of any kind, that little snippet of fact tumbled by the wayside over the years.

Connie wanted to create an elegant, eclectic space that could have high entertainment value so that when a movie was playing downstairs, there could be a sort of nightclub upstairs. Mind you, this was before the cinema space even existed.

Connie said that with some help, she could transform that dark, ugly room into a thing of beauty. I think she was most excited about the transformation process: the cleaning (which was her passion), the painting of the plaster walls in a pearly shade of grey, and the ceiling, which was full of gilded moldings. The ceiling went up in three levels, each of which she painted a different shade of rose so that, in all, there were six shades of rose surrounding the gilding! It was simply gorgeous.

Today, the Connie Moses Ballroom is part of our open exhibit, “Restoring Hope,” which features the restoration of the Carolina Theatre and the volunteers that made it happen. The exhibit is open to the public Monday-Friday from 10:30 am-5:30 pm. Learn more.