VA 231, Cismont, Va.
capacity: 100 cars plus numerous seats
years of operation: 1948-52
currently: part of private residential lot; shell of projection booth remains
Below are two photos from 1948, from a defunct Richmond real-estate firm, labeled as depicting a drive-in near Charlottesville -- as it turns out, the Seven Pines, which was the only drive-in operating in the area at the time. Note the two loudspeakers on either side of the screen, a common setup in the earliest drive-ins, and the columns of benches set up in front. The theatre was built in back of the store/gas station shown in the second photo. From the collection of the Virginia Department of Historical Resources.
"The pictures on your web site are indeed the Seven Pines drive-in. I recognized the place from the picture of the store. The store is still there and in use. It's had two garage bays added to the right side where an old ice house was removed. The owner's house is immediately to the right and slightly behind the store. The screen tower was immediately to the right of the owner's house. As you look at the screen picture, the store would be behind the left side of the screen. The owner's house which is still there would be directly behind the screen. The entrance to the theatre is grassed over but it's obvious where it was.
"Current owner of the property is a Mr. Bomar who bought it in 1954. He said at that time, all traces of the drive-in except the projection booth were gone. The booth still stands. It's about a 12 x 12 cinderblock building with one window on the side, a door on the other side, and no roof. It fell in about 15 years ago. A snack bar was originally beside the booth but was gone in 1954.
"The original owner/builder in 1947/48 was Mr. Pugh who also initially built and owned the Drive-In that was in Orange, Va. He sold out and moved away before 1954. When he closed the Seven Pines theatre, he sold everything to an unknown person who removed everything. The screen was a plywood screen supported by telephone poles. The buyer stripped the projection booth to the walls, even took mounting bolts from what I saw. He said the only thing still in the booth was a pipe used as conduit sticking up a few inches out of the floor. I'm told he even dug up the speaker wiring to each post and took it as well, although the current owner runs into some wiring from time to time when he is plowing his garden.
"When Mr. Bomar bought the property in 1954, there was no trace of the drive-in except the empty booth. No memorabilia were left, no pictures, no advertising, no newspaper articles, nothing, except the former employee who helped build it, and is still working there at the garage. He's never seen a picture of it.
"It was built initially without the typical speaker poles and the pictures shown are very early shots that show the original speakers beside the screen. After numerous complaints of noise from the few neighbors around, the traditional speaker posts and speakers were installed. Some of the ramps are still visible, and it appears there were six or seven of them. The picture of the screen seems to be taken from ramp 1 or 2.
"The theatre got its name from seven pine trees on the property. Three or four of them still exist." -- Joe Smith
"My father built this drive-in in the late forties when I was about 8 years old. We used to show movies and also had stage shows on occasion. I have numerous ads from the Charlottesville paper advertising the movies. Most of the time the entry price was $1.00 per car load. The largest crowd ever was probably about 200 cars for a country stage show. My father J.G. Pugh built the store, house and later the theater. He also built the Orange Drive-In with Jack Johnson, a neighbor. Jack Johnson operated the Orange Drive-In while my father operated Seven Pines. Soon after the demise of the theater (due in part I think to the opening of Ridge Drive-In in Charlottesville and the inability to get any late movies) my father built a stock car race track at Zion Crossroads. The raceway initially was known as Hilltop Speedway and later Central Virginia Raceway." -- Ken Pugh
Joe Smith also provided the photos
below of the Seven Pines site, taken in June 2001.
The old entranceway, now grassed-over.
Above and below, views of the projection booth remains from the outside and inside.
One of the original "seven pines".
The old store, as it is now.
Got some additional information,
or some pictures or stories about this drive-in
you'd like to share? Email me -- thanks!