Comments from Joe Vogel

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Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Aztec Theater on Feb 28, 2015 at 7:05 pm

The Aztec Theatre is not on David and Noelle Soren’s list of known Boller Brothers theaters, though the list does include Enid’s Billings Theatre, opened in 1921. A December 30, 1930, article about the La Nora Theatre in the Pampa Sunday News-Post of Pampa, Texas, mentioned the Aztec Theatre in Enid as one of the other theaters designed by Gates Corgan, architect of the La Nora. Corgan was both the architect and the contractor for Griffith Amusement company projects from the mid 1920s until 1939.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Yucca Theatre on Feb 28, 2015 at 6:44 pm

The Yucca Theatre was set to open on April 17, 1931, according to the previous day’s issue of the Roswell Daily Record. The house was built for Griffith Amusement Company. An article in the December 30, 1930, issue of the Pampa Sunday News Post about the opening of the La Nora Theatre in Pampa, Texas, said that the Griffith theater then under construction in Roswell had been designed by the La Nora’s architect, Gates Corgan.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Luna Theatre on Feb 28, 2015 at 5:34 pm

An article in the October 2, 1936, issue of The Deming Headlight said that the Princess Theatre had been taken over by Griffith Theatres and would be closed for several weeks for extensive rebuilding. The floor would be rebuilt and a balcony added. The house was also to be renamed. The architect for the project was Gates Corgan, with Bill Moore of Fairfax, Oklahoma, acting as supervising architect.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about La Nora Theatre on Feb 28, 2015 at 12:40 pm

In one of the several articles about the new La Nora Theatre that appeared in the Pampa Sunday News-Post of December 30, 1930, the day before the theater opened, was this information:

“Gates Corgan of Oklahoma City, architect for Griffith Amusement company, designed the new La Nora theatre and supervised construction details. He has designed many fine theatres, including the Aztec at Enid, the Bison at Shawnee, and the new Griffith movie palace at Roswell, under construction.”

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Rig Theatre on Feb 28, 2015 at 12:31 pm

The NRHP Registration Form for the Rig Theatre (PDF here) says that the house was built for the Griffith Amusement Company in 1928. Given that it was a Griffith house and built that year, it was almost certainly designed and built by Oklahoma City architect/contractor Gates Corgan, who handled over 100 projects for Griffith by 1939.

The NRHP form has a nice early exterior photo of the house. There is also a photo of the first band of Wink native Roy Orbison. There are plans to restore the Rig as a live performance venue in conjunction with the Roy Orbison museum.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Oasis Theatre on Feb 28, 2015 at 12:00 pm

Here is a photo of the former Oasis Theatre by Andrew Butler. The building now houses a real estate office and the office of the Winkler County Appraisal District. Internet says the building is at 107 E. Winkler Street.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Fort Theatre on Feb 28, 2015 at 10:59 am

The link to a nocturnal photo of the Empress Theatre in an earlier comment is dead, but it might have been the undated photo on this web page. Judging from the cars parked along Central Avenue I’d say the photo was taken within a couple of years of the theater’s opening.

Several interior photos of the Fort Theatre after its conversion to other uses can be found in the building’s NRHP Registration Form, currently available in the PDF format here. The house served as a bar and grill with live entertainment for a while before being converted into a dental office.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about OhioTheatre on Feb 26, 2015 at 6:17 pm

The Ohio Theatre was mentioned in the January 9, 1936, issue of The Film Daily:

“Youngstown, O— The Ohio, neighborhood theater, dark for several months, has been reopened with a subsequent run policy. House has been reconditioned.”

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Sourwine Theater on Feb 25, 2015 at 11:19 pm

The December, 1906, issue of The Ohio Architect and Builder reported that John D. Sourwine of Terre Haute would advertise for bids on the new opera house he was building at Brazil. The house was expected to be ready to open by summer of 1907.

Here is an early postcard image of the Sourwine Opera House from Indiana Memory.

The Sourwine Theatre was destroyed by a fire in early 1947. The Cooper Theatre was built on its site.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Walnut Theatre on Feb 25, 2015 at 10:51 pm

The Brazil Times published a letter from John Weddle in 2011 which can be read on this web page. It says that the Cooper Theatre replaced the Sourwine Theatre on the same site and opened in February, 1948. The Sourwine had been destroyed by fire in early 1947.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Roxy Cinema on Feb 25, 2015 at 7:57 pm

The Roxy Theatre was located in the Canfield WPA Memorial Building, 132 S Broad Street. The building also housed a library, an American Legion hall and a Masonic lodge, as well as facilities for youth groups. It is now privately owned and has been converted into offices.

Construction on the building began in December, 1936. It was designed in the Colonial Revival style by Youngstown architects Cook & Canfield (William H. Cook and W. Canfield.) The project was financed in part by local subscription and in part by funds from the Works Progress Administration.

In 2007 the building was declared an historic site by the Ohio Historical Society, who placed a marker. The text of the marker can be read on this web page.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Poly Theatre on Feb 24, 2015 at 10:17 pm

The May 3, 1946, issue of The Film Daily said that R. F. Smith was the architect for the New Poly Theatre being built by Tri-States Theaters at Forth Worth.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Bison Theatre on Feb 24, 2015 at 9:20 pm

The only theater in Shawnee that is attributed to Boller Brothers on David and Noelle Soren’s list of known Boller Theaters is the Misson Theatre of 1927.

The May 1, 1946, issue of The Film Daily has a death notice for Shawnee architect Gates Corgan and attributes the design of the Bison Theatre to him:

“Gates Corgan Dead

“Shawnee, Olka. — Gates Corgan, 68, prominent Shawnee architect and contractor who from 1925 until his retirement two years ago was architect and contractor for the Griffith Amusement Co., died here. He built the Bison here in 1926 and built other theaters in Oklahoma and Mid-western states. He is the father of Jack Corgan of Dallas, well known Southwestern theater architect.”

Another item in the same magazine said that Gates Corgan had designed more than 100 houses for the Griffith Amusement Company.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Esquire Theatre on Feb 23, 2015 at 10:29 pm

The Friday, February 7, 1908, issue of The Orrville Courier of Orriville, Ohio, had an item about the opening of the Princess Theatre:

“The Princess theater, Youngstown’s newest playhouse, opened its doors to the public Monday night. From the dazzling electric lights in the front of the theater to the last act of the interesting program the place and entertainment is attractive and pleasing. Pretty girl ushers are only one of the novelties.”
The Princess was opened by Proctor E. Seas, a former resident of Orrville.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Esquire Theatre on Feb 23, 2015 at 10:16 pm

The September 27, 1934, issue of The Film Daily had a brief item saying that the Princess Theatre in Youngstown, which had been dark since spring, had been reopened by Stephen Grapa with a stage policy (I’m pretty sure the magazine misspelled the Italian surname, which was probably Grappa, or even di Grappa.)

The item also said that the manager of the Princess was named Ralph Pitzer. Interestingly, Ralph D. Pitzer was listed as the manager of the Princess Family Theatre at Youngstown in the 1913-1914 edition of the Cahn guide. The guide listed the house as a ground floor theater with 800 seats, 500 on the main floor and 300 in the balcony. It was then playing Gus Sun vaudeville shows exclusively.

The Princess began running the Sun shows in 1910, as the November 6 issue of Variety said that the remodeled house would reopen with Gus Sun vaudeville on November 14. A later Variety item datelined Youngstown, November 24, said that the Princess, booked by Gus Sun, and the Park, booked by another vaudeville office, Feiber & Shea, of New York, were both doing fine business.

The Princess had a very diverse history. I’ve found references to stock companies playing the house in 1915 and the early 1920s, as well as vaudeville, movies, and burlesque. The August 30, 1929, issue of the New Castle News ran an item touting the opening of the New Princess Theatre in Youngstown, “…all repaired, repainted. redecorated, renovated….” and featuring something called the “Billy Leich Teddy Bear Girls Company, The show with a kick….” The item also boasted of the house’s new “lighted runway,” so it was surely a burlesque operation at that time.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Fairfax Theatre on Feb 23, 2015 at 1:06 am

Thanks for the information, Don. I totally missed the Ponce de Leon Theatre in my search.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Empire Theatre on Feb 23, 2015 at 12:58 am

In January, 1928, Motion Picture News noted that the Empire Theatre, then under construction, would be operated by Neighborhood Theatres, the regional Universal Pictures subsidiary partly owned by Oscar Oldknow.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Ponce de Leon Theatre on Feb 23, 2015 at 12:52 am

The January 27, 1927, issue of Motion Picture News had an article about Universal Pictures expanding its theater holdings in the Atlanta area. One line pertained to the Ponce de Leon Theatre: “One of the company’s most recent acquisitions was a fifty per cent interest in the community theatre just being completed on Ponce de Leon Avenue near Boulevard, one of the city’s most flourishing centers.”

The Universal affiliate in Atlanta, Neighborhood Theatres, was partly owned by Oscar Oldknow, the regional vice president of Universal’s theater arm. Other Neighborhood Theatres houses in which Universal acquired an interest at this time included the Fairfax in East Point and the Madison in East Atlanta. In 1928 the chain opened the Empire Theatre on Georgia Avenue.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Fox Theatre on Feb 23, 2015 at 12:04 am

I’m glad to be of help.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Strand Theatre on Feb 22, 2015 at 8:49 pm

The Strand Theatre opened the second week of November, 1915. The house was built by local businessman Robert M. Frey and initially operated by Harry A. Sellers. It was designed by Harrisburg architect C. H. Lloyd (Charles Howard Lloyd.)

The Strand was extensively remodeled in 1938 after being taken over by the Chertcoff circuit.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Rialto Theatre on Feb 22, 2015 at 4:00 pm

Champaign architect George Ramey designed the 1938 rebuild of the Rialto Theatre’s interior, according to an article in the September 28 issue of The Daily Illini that year. Raney’s design sounds decidedly Streamline Modern, judging from these lines: “Modernistic simplicity is the keynote of interior decoration. The undecorated walls, completely soundproof, are lighted by blue and amber indirect lighting.”

The Rialto apparently still had an organ in 1938, as the final line of the article read thusly: “A grill concealing the organ has been held up in shipment from the east coast due to interrupted transportation and has been transhipped to reach Champaign for the opening night.”

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Albro Theatre on Feb 22, 2015 at 3:14 pm

The Urbana Daily Courier of August 11, 1913, had an article saying that construction of the new theater on Market Street had begun and was expected to be completed within thirty days. The architect for the project was J. W. Royer.

Joseph W. Royer (1873-1954) lived in Urbana all his life. He was an 1895 graduate of the University of Illinois, and designed many important buildings in Champaign County.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Belmont Theatre on Feb 22, 2015 at 1:22 pm

An item in the September 4, 1915, issue of The Moving Picture World noted the retirement from the theater business of pioneer Philadelphia exhibitor Samuel Wheeler, and said that he had built the Belmont Theatre:


“Samuel F. Wheeler, one of the leading lights in the local field of the moving picture industry, recently announced his intention of retiring from that line of endeavor. When the moving picture business was in its infancy Mr. Wheeler built the Fifty-second Street theater, Fifty-second and Sansom streets, and experienced remarkable success from the first. He soon began looking around for ground upon which to erect a much larger house, with the result that he erected the Belmont theater, Fifty-second street, above Market. Following this he built the Apollo theater at Fifty-second street and Girard avenue.

“Following the construction of the Apollo things began to break in the wrong direction for Mr. Wheeler and he soon sold his latest theater. Business continued to fall away on account of keen competition in the neighborhood of his theaters and Mr. Wheeler came to the conclusion that he would devote his entire interest to his original occupation as a lawyer. The Fifty-second Street theater and the Belmont theater may either be bought or leased. It has been rumored that the Felt brothers, proprietors of the Locust theater, Fifty-second and Locust streets, will buy the Belmont.”

The January 22, 1916, issue of MPW said that the Felt Brothers had taken over both of Wheeler’s 52nd Street houses:

“The Felt Brothers, proprietors of the Locust, West Philadelphia’s leading moving picture theater, recently added to their place in the local field by taking over the Fifty-second street and Belmont theaters, which were formerly conducted by Samuel H. Wheeler. With the acquisition of these properties by the Felt brothers comes a change in the management policy of both houses. Henceforth in the afternoon the price of admission will be five cents at the Fifty-second street theater and ten cents at the Belmont. In the evenings the prices will be fifteen cents at both establishments. It is planned to show nothing but first class pictures and Messrs. Felt and Felt, who have already made themselves known in Philadelphia moving picture circles, expect to meet with their usual success in this enterprise.”

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Rivoli Theater on Feb 22, 2015 at 1:20 pm

According to an item in the December 1, 1909, issue of The American Architect, the 95x107-foot store and moving picture theater building being built at Sansom and 52nd Streets, which architect Jacob Nasehold had designed, was being built for Samuel Wheeler. The February 14, 1914, issue of The Moving Picture World had this bit of information about Mr. Wheeler:

“WE comment specially upon the election of Mr. Samuel Wheeler as President of the State League of Pennsylvania, because it is typical of the remarkable improvement of the personnel of the exhibitor. Mr. Wheeler has a substantial stake in the exhibiting business. He is the owner of a chain of prosperous motion picture theaters in the city of Philadelphia. He is an attorney, and has on more than one occasion asserted the rights of the exhibitor in the courts of his state. He is essentially constructive. He has exalted ideals of the mission and the responsibility of the exhibitor. He is progressive, and places the welfare of the exhibitors' organization above any consideration of self. We congratulate the exhibitors of Pennsylvania upon their excellent choice.”
The June 21, 1912, issue of The Player also had an item about Mr. Wheeler:
“Samuel Wheeler, who owns and operates the Fifty-second Street theater, has arranged to build a new moving picture house at the corner of Fifty-second and Market streets. This will make two houses that he owns within a short distance of the Nixon theater. He opened the Fifty-second street house before the Nixon was completed, and when that house got running he switched to pictures and made money. Now he will build a new house still nearer than his former one, to the Nixon, and will arrange it so that he can add vaudeville as an attraction in case pictures do not get the money he expects.”
I had thought that the house at 52nd and Market might have been the mysterious Grand, which operated only for a few years, but an item about Samuel Wheeler’s retirement from the theater business in the September 4, 1915, issue of The Moving Picture World says that he owned the Belmont Theatre, which was up the block from Market Street, but didn’t mention the Grand.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Liberty Theatre on Feb 22, 2015 at 11:47 am

EdwardsBrynele: I found only the January obituary. Obituaries in the trade papers were always brief unless the deceased was a major figure in the industry. Major figures might get a short notice in one issue and a longer obituary in a later issue, but local theater operators typically only got one item, and that often only in one trade paper. Undoubtedly many got no notice in the trades at all.

I’ve searched for other references to Henry Thomas in the trade publications but haven’t found any. There probably are some but the limitations of current search engines are preventing them from being found. I’ve also searched for additional references to earlier theaters in Oak Hill, but again with no success.

A second floor hall does sound very likely for the earlier Liberty Theatre, though. In the late 19th century second floor theaters were probably more common than ground floor houses, especially in smaller cities. A lot of them ended up as early movie houses before being replaced by more modern theaters.

Even though the original front of the Liberty Theatre was destroyed by the 1929 fire, I suspect that the rebuilt front was probably not much different from the original. The brickwork is much more typical of the early 1920s than it is of the late 1920s. They might even have used a lot of the original bricks in the reconstruction.