The Lowry-Chesson building was built in 1897 and housed a retail store on the first floor and the theater upstairs. The Chesson Building is one of the historic commercial buildings in downtown Elizabeth City. Later, the theater closed. Chesson's Department Store operated there from the 1930s to 1999. Structural failure caused the building to collapse from within.
In 1933, the building was purchased by Ernest Sinclair Chesson (1868-1948) who moved his department store, E.S. Chesson Company (founded in 1901) into the building. The Academy of Music, Elizabeth City’s first major theatre house of this size, was host to numerous shows and entertainments.