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Now the site of the Virginia General Assembly building, the Lyric Theatre and office building built in 1913 once housed the fire insurance company that Charles Franklin Payne worked at before and after he served in World War I. When World War I began, political speakers spoke at the theatre to persuade people to buy liberty bonds. The office building housed many departments of the state as well as other offices. It housed the Richmond Coop Milk Producers Association, the Division of Markets, the Virginia State Teachers Association, the Engineering Department of State Highway Commission, State Veterinarian, State department of prohibition, department of game and inland fisheries, and Remington and Rudolph architects among others.

Lyric Office Building and Theatre

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Lyric Office Building and Theatre

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Charles Franklin Payne was born on 13 August, 1893 at Barbour District, Orange, Virginia to James Henry Payne and Mary Belle (Withers) Payne. Charles was the eldest of 4 children born in this family, all boys. His younger brother James Clyde Payne (born 1897) also served in the First World War. Prior to his service in World War I, Charles Franklin Payne moved from the Green Spring, Louisa, Virginia area which is about 70 miles from Richmond to work for a home and fire insurance company at the Lyric office building in downtown Richmond.

In April of 1917 the United States entered the First World War. In Richmond, the Lyric Theatre acted as a place for political speakers to talk about purchasing liberty bonds to help the United States pay for the war. The Lyric Theatre was located directly next to the Lyric office building where Charles Franklin Payne worked for a home and fire Insurance company. 

Payne entered into service a year later on May 4, 1918 at Richmond, Virginia as a private in a military school section of the National Army. He was originally assigned originally to the military school at Lehigh University in South Bethlehem Pennsylvania. His military training took him from Pennsylvania to Kansas to New Jersey where he was trained on serving in the Battalion Signal Corps. He embarked from Hoboken New York on the Orizabo ship on September 4th 1918 and arrived at St. Nazaire France on September 13, 1918. 

After arriving in France, he and his fellow soldiers were quartered in buildings which were originally used for stables but that he said were “very comfortable”. Part of his duties in the military were to cook for a detail of fifty soldiers though his main duties were on the Signal Corps doing work in the telephone and telegraph office. “I was assigned to telephone switchboard work, operating the French lines and here I remained until some time during the later part of June 1919. Very anxious to know and tired of waiting when word would come that we might prepare to move to some embarkation for home. To our surprise one day there came an order to take out all telephone lines and discontinue the telephone and telegraph office at this point and to prepare to move to some embarkation point at an early date. It did not take many weeks to finish up this job when we realized that only a few more moves would start us on our journey across the briney deep to our home in America.”

After serving for just over a year his time in the military service ended when he arrived at Hoboken New York on the Kentuckian on July 7th 1919 from St. Nazaire, France and was discharged from service at Camp Dix New Jersey on July 12th 1919 as a Private 1st Class. He said that his overseas experience “Made me appreciate my own country (America) in a broader sense than ever before.”

After his service in the military he reflected on his training helping him with his future endeavors. He said “In general military service gives a young man a training which is beneficial in years to come, though he might not think so when he is receiving the same. My experience doing work in the signal corps was very interesting & learning.” He married Dorothy R. Browning in Richmond in 1921, and they had one son named Charles Franklin Payne II. Payne continued working in the insurance business for the home insurance company and superior life insurance company. Recalling his service in the war he said that “Though I passed through many hardships while in the Service I count that I have gained in knowledge and experience and my mind has been broadened in many ways.” He died on 30 March 1970 in Richmond, Virginia.

Unknown. Lyric Theater, January 1, 1970. 

Jr., Harry Kollatz. “From Elephants to Elvis.”, August 1, 1999. 

“Lyric Theatre.” Cinema Treasures. Accessed May 6, 2021. 

“Virginia Journal of Education.” Google Books. Google. Accessed May 7, 2021. 

“Journal of the Senate of the Commonwealth of Virginia.” Google Books. Google. Accessed May 7, 2021. 

General Assembly Building Webcams. Accessed May 7, 2021. 

"United States World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942," database with images, FamilySearch ( : 7 April 2016), 004135196 > image 4997 of 6489. Citing NARA microfilm publications M1936, M1937, M1939, M1951, M1962, M1964, M1986, M2090, and M2097 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).

"Virginia, Death Certificates, 1912-1987," database with images, FamilySearch ( : 20 August 2018), Richmond (Ind. City) > 1970 > image 735 of 3138; from "Virginia, Marriage Records, 1700-1850," database and images, Ancestry ( : 2012); citing Virginia Department of Health, Richmond.

"United States, GenealogyBank Historical Newspaper Obituaries, 1815-2011," database, FamilySearch ( : 7 April 2020), > image 1 of 1; Citing Newsbank.

Virginia War History Commission Series I, 1919-1924. Box 10 Folder 1, State Records Collection, The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia.

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