Her paintings were shown at the 1939 World’s Fair, and she helped decorate the White House during the Roosevelt Administration. But the artistic highlight of Lola Poston’s painting career was surely the six 15×20 ft. murals she created in 1929 for the auditorium of the newly built Lincoln Theatre, a talking picture palace and vaudeville stage in Marion, VA.
Billed as “the finest playhouse between Roanoke and Knoxville,” the theater opened on July 1 that year playing Close Harmony to a standing room only crowd. Lincoln Theatre served as the flagship of a chain of movie houses throughout SW Virginia. Today it’s one of only three remaining American movie houses built in Mayan Revival style.
Lincoln Theatre’s interior resembles an ancient temple with exotic representations of mythological gods and creatures painted on the ceilings and walls. Poston’s murals live amidst this décor, housed in pyramid frames. Poston used cotton panels with water-based paints to depict scenes in early American and local history. She was paid $50 for each painting. The murals have been meticulously restored within the last decade; the theatre itself is now on the National Register of Historic Places and is a Virginia Historic Landmark.
Lola Poston was born on November 12, 1896, in a log cabin in the Walker’s Creek section of Smyth County, VA. She was the oldest of the ten children of Charles Marion Poston and Ida Lodema Hammons. Charles Poston was half-Irish and half-Shawnnee, and his wife was full-blooded Shawnee.
At age 5, Lola painted a self-portrait by looking at herself in a mirror. As she grew up, she began selling her paintings on the streets of Marion. Recognizing her extreme talent, Mr. and Mrs. C. C. Lincoln, Sr. sent her to study art in Chicago. She didn’t stay long at the school. Soon she began drawing illustrations for greeting card companies, then worked for a design company in New York City.
She met her first husband, Charles E. Harriman, and World War I broke out during their European honeymoon. They escaped to England and returned to the United States.
After her first marriage came to an end, she married J. Ellis Dickerson, who operated a car dealership and real estate business from their basement. They resided in Grayson County, VA, home of Mount Rogers, the highest peak in the state.
She became friends with nationally renowned writer and part-time local resident Sherwood Anderson. She retired to Florida in her later years and taught arts and crafts, raised Dachshunds, and managed a flower shop.
Marion and Hungry Mother State Park, by Kenneth William Heath, Arcadia Publishing, 2004
Smyth County Revisited, by Kimberly Barr Byrd, Debbie J. Williams, Debra J Williams, Arcadia Publishing, 2007