Century Theatre

12 Mary Street,
Hamilton, ON L8

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Showing 26 - 50 of 96 comments

mortonbg on January 9, 2010 at 5:19 am

Seems like end of next week before the demolition crews start at it. The city has commissioned am independent surveyors report according to CHCH news tonight.

hamiltonmark on January 9, 2010 at 1:35 am

It’s a sad day. On the CH news they showed a arial view of the building and you could see the missing section of the roof as well as other sections that are in sad shape. It did not take long for the front entrance section of the Tivoli to be torn down, and with Mary street closed off to all trafic, it won’t be long before the Century is torn down as well.

telliott on January 8, 2010 at 6:41 pm

A sad day indeed. The Century should have been restored years ago. Hamilton has lost the Tivoli, Capitol, Palace and now the Century and any one of them could have been and should have been fully restored like so many other old movie palaces and used for concerts, plays, Broadway shows etc. Such a shame.

mortonbg on January 8, 2010 at 6:13 pm

Tragic news! Looks like the Century is coming down tomorrow!

Century Theatre structurally unstable, in jeopardy
January 08, 2010
Nicole O'Reilly
The Hamilton Spectator
(Jan 8, 2010)

The facade of the heritage- designated Century Theatre is in jeopardy after the city issued an order that it is unsafe and blocked access to the historic downtown building yesterday afternoon.

City of Hamilton public works staff began closing Mary Street and its sidewalks from King Street East to the northeast edge of the property around 4 p.m. as the building’s owner, Zoran Cocov, of Lyric Century Apartments, looked on. The neighbouring parking lot will also be closed.

The order calls for immediate action because the building’s inside on the upper floors are structurally unstable, said city spokesperson Debbie Spence.

Cars were towed off the street and neighbours were warned of the problem, though they were not told to evacuate. Police patrolled the area on foot to ward off any pedestrians.

Spence said the owner must have an engineer with heritage knowledge on site today to determine the immediate next steps. The area will remain closed until action is taken.

Lyric Century Apartments, which has owned the property for almost 10 years, obtained a heritage permit for the historic building’s facade in 2007 and a demolition permit to tear down the rear of the building in March 2009, she said.

Plans were in the works to build a 59-unit condominium building, Cocov said.

The plan was to preserve the facade and first bay of side walls to stand as the condo entrance, he said. But the instability may mean the facade is too dangerous to save.

“Health and safety has to be the main concern right now,” Cocov said.

In a Spectator article in September, Cocov said the preservation of the heritage feature was proving very expensive.

It is unclear when construction might have begun, as no site design had been submitted to the city, Spence said.

The city was alerted to the problem through an engineering company that had examined the site to provide the owners with a quote for its services, she said.

The state of the theatre, which is on the city’s list of vacant buildings, caused many complaints from residents, Spence said. The last property standards complaint was on June 5, claiming the building was open to trespassers.

The historic building was the biggest of its kind in Hamilton when it opened 1913. With 2,000 seats it was a prime location on the vaudeville circuit and later showed movies.

It closed 20 years ago. Its last movie was Lethal Weapon 2.

Ward 2 Councillor Bob Bratina remembers seeing movies there. He said he is very sad to see how far a building with such value and presence has deteriorated.

“I had high hopes to reinstate it as a music theatre,” he said.

Bratina said the city should have been able to preserve the building.

“It shows we still have a long way to go on our property standards,” he said.

Bratina initiated the bylaw for proactive inspections. He said he plans to review it for holes, including what he called a lack of roof inspections.

“We continually have buildings falling down before our eyes.”

lhl12 on December 23, 2009 at 3:37 am

Thank you everybody so much for filling me in. It’s beyond sad that this building is being gutted yet again.

About ten or twelve years ago I began to research the Lyric Theatre, and drove up to Hamilton from Buffalo on several occasions, whenever time would permit. I started piecing together whatever I could find from the downtown library’s scrapbooks and microfilms and wandered around the outside the building a number of times. You see, the Lyric was built by my favorite architectural firm, Leon H Lempert & Son, Theatrical Architects (1884-1933), based in Rochester. I had no success in locating any illustrations of the original 1912/1913 interior, which I understand was gutted and completely remodeled several times through the decades. Of course, all that was before the days of cinematreasures.org – or, at least I think it was – and so there was simply no possibility that I could hook up with other interested researchers. Since I have moved away from the region, I decided to post my sloppy, quick-and-dirty scrapbook online: View link

If you can add to this knowledge, please contact me. Or if you wish to use my scrapbook in furtherance of a book or article or documentary, please contact me prior to doing so.

If you can dig up Lempert’s original designs, blueprints, or photos of the original interior, please contact me at

Many, many thanks!


telliott on July 4, 2009 at 2:33 am

Yes, what a shame eh! Still can’t believe that they let the Capitol and Palace go either. Just think of what beautiful show houses they would be now like the Canon and Elgin are in Toronto. They could have complimented the new and modern Hamilton Place. Oh well, some cities don’t seem to care about such things. tsk tsk.

mortonbg on June 17, 2009 at 3:11 am

Well looks like the long history of the Century / Lyric is about to come to an end soon. The construction / demolition permits have reportedly been issued… Soon nothing will remain but the exterior walls. Well it almost made it 100 before its end… shame that Hamilton cares so little about its history to see a grand old dame like this left to rot for 20 years.

A classic case of demolition by neglect and the Ontario Heritage designation of its 1940 interior has made no difference whatsoever as far as I can see…

jpyoung on March 18, 2009 at 6:07 pm

I walk past the Century almost every day when I go to the supermarket and last night there was a white van parked outside with ladders on top it. The van didn’t look official or anything and the door on the left of the Century’s front entrance was open but it was too dark. You couldn’t see anything without a flashlight and I don’t think anyone would go in there at that time of night. Maybe homeless people were crashing there?

ParticleMan on March 17, 2009 at 4:03 am

There’s a rumor that the owner of the Century has applied for all the necessary permits to turn the Century into residential units. This is all I know for now, will pass along more info as I find it.

janwade on October 31, 2008 at 12:40 am

well…talk about syncronicity…while researching the CENTURYTHEATRE
in hamilton…I came across my grandmother’s(mrs.evangeline wade)name
and yes she was indeed one of the wonders of the world…I grew up in
hamilton and for the first five years of my life we lived with my great-grandmother(moma) and my most beloved grand-mother(muna) or
mrs. evangeline weade to you…I remember your father mr. marriot as
a really kind and gentle…gentlman…he was very good to my grand-mother and for this I will alway’s be graitful…I spent many…many hours in the theater while growing up and watched some of the wonderful films that helped turn me into the artist/filmofile I am today…I attended sir john a macdonald secondary school and came to visit my grandmother at the theater after school on my way home…sometimes just to talk…and sometimes to watch the same movies over and over again from every seat …camera room…etc…
you may not know this but my grandmothers husband…they had been seperated many years…mr. wade was originally from the U.S.A and was a vaudvillian…I have applied to do an exhibition at hamilton artists inc.(don’t know if I have it yet) and my theme is …THE CENTURY…is'nt life interesting…jan wade…artist…vancouver bc…

mortonbg on May 22, 2008 at 5:29 am

Well good news…

Some errors in what I posted above…

Looks like Miss Cecelia Bartley lived after all.. At least she was still alive three weeks later after the shooting… So it was just a suicide.. Also the gunman was Jack Grubb, 45 of Baltimore, who was the UNDER THE APPLE TREE’S scenic carpenter. There were quite a few murders in Hamilton that month, (including a mobster found on Ridge Road in Stoney Creek)… I was surprised at the lack of coverage

Lastly the shooting happened at 5:40 pm on Friday November 25th, which was between Evening and Matinee performances.. The only person in the audience was an usher, who quickly summoned police from Central Station which was less then a block away… The star of the play was Loring Smith, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loring_Smith who later had quite a successful career..

ParticleMan on May 12, 2008 at 12:08 am

That was a bit chilling to read. I’ll be thinking about that next time I’m standing backstage.

mortonbg on May 11, 2008 at 6:41 am

At last I’ve confirmed a story I’ve long heard about the Lyric Theatre.

There was indeed a murder committed backstage. From the Hamilton Herald November 26, 1921

JEALOUS MAN’S RAGE ENDS IN FATAL SHOOTING – Harry Grubb, actor shot and probably fatally injured Miss Cecilia Bartley, Actress – Turned Gun on Self – He died shortly after – Both were members of Act at the Lyric.

To paraphrase the rest. Harry Grubb, 45 of NYC and Miss Cecilia Bartley, 21 of Chicago were both in a musical comedy act called “Under The Apple Tree”.. He shot her at the stage door, and then marched on stage where the afternoon matinee was in progress and in view of the audience, shot himself twice in the chest killing himself instantly. Miss Bartley was taken to the City (general) Hospital in grave condition, (bullets in chest and head) and was not expected to survive. I need to check out the microfilm newspapers for more details.. Will post more when I get more details…

hamiltonmark on May 9, 2008 at 3:11 am

I can remember standing in line to see movies at this theatre (and many others) when the line would stetch down Mary Street and around the corner down King William Street. You don’t stand outside in a line these days to see a movie.
It also did not matter what the weather was like either. Mark.

mortonbg on May 8, 2008 at 7:10 pm

Be very careful urban spelunkers.. No trespassing signs everywhere, and police station across the street. No power in the building at present either. (No one to hear you scream in the dark – Hey I saw ALIEN at the Century in 1978 – It was the first restricted movie I ever saw – I was 15 at the time, but looked older)…

However, if you do get in, please take lots of pictures of the backstage area and post them somewhere for me.. :–)

I wandered around the outside last weekend myself and took about 50 pictures of the exterior from every angle. Once I find a place to post them I will share them..

mortonbg on May 8, 2008 at 7:02 pm

The Regent Theatre in Toronto (ex Belsize, ex-Crest) /theaters/7574/ has found life again as a post production house. They mix dolby sound during the day and it still shows movies at night which is a win win situation.It might be a viable opportunity to save the building – or as studio space for a film shoots – lost of square footage.

The building needs to be stabilized though. A new roof (at least at the front), and interior demolition of the front part of the building (2nd and 3rd floors) just to get the doors open again..

BTW last week I saw the images of the 1944 Century Interior at the Ontario Archives, those swirling designs on the side walls were clearly there, they must have been commissioned by Kaplan and Sprachman who did the renovation in 1940.

ParticleMan on May 6, 2008 at 10:09 pm

The risk isn’t so much being caught, but rather of personal injury once you get in. The wooden floors near the entrance are rotted through and you’re likely to fall through (as I have done before). Anyway look in the back by the fence, that’s all I can say. I’d suggest going in the day so you get the most ambient light.

Anyway if you get in, be VERY careful and make sure to walk on the supports where possible. Take it slowly and listen to the floor. Take a cell phone as well.

RWalker on May 6, 2008 at 9:31 pm

My friend and I were checking this out a few weeks back. However we did not go inside as we were unsure of the best entranceway (weary of the neighbouring Police Station) For those of you who have been inside do you have any suggestions for access points? When would be the best time to go? Is there a high risk of being caught?

Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

11thIndian on May 6, 2008 at 2:18 pm

I remember specifically which movies i saw at the Century, since it was the exception when we didn’t see something at the Tivoli. SUPERMAN in ‘78, THE BLACK HOLE in '79, and the last movie was TUCKER: THE MAN AND HIS DREAM in '88.

I work in film and television post-production now and one of my fondest dreams would be to buy this theatre and renovate it into a post production house.

mortonbg on April 29, 2008 at 6:30 am


The roof of the Tivoli’s auditorium is ok as far as I know. It was in very good shape back in 1991 – 1992 anyway when I worked in the building, and I have no reason to believe that it has deteriorated much since then.

Most of the urban spelunkers take only pictures, so even on that score I think the TIV is ok, although I agree it would be better if the building had more regular security.

The question is can the Ballet raise the $10 million. Scuttlebutt says they are in the middle of a feasibility study in order to secure provincial and federal grant money for a restoration. I hope that they get it!

The Century sadly has no such allies.. and has been empty and unheated since Sept 1989. WE made a proposal to the owners in 1991, but they went with a group that wanted to open a night club.. Sadly this never opened.

hamiltonmark on April 29, 2008 at 5:32 am

Brian. I checked out the web site for the present owners but I did not find any information about what they are doing to prevent any further damage to the Tivoli auditorium such as a new roof which is desperatly needed from what I understand or keeping it secure from people entering it without permision.(if you know what I mean.)
One last comment, it is funny that the only part of the Century that is protected is the front part of the theatre and compared to the rest of the building it is in the worst of shape.Mark.

ParticleMan on April 28, 2008 at 5:27 pm

I have ascended that ladder up into the space above the 1940’s cinema. You get a view of the collapsed roof which fell on what is left of the balcony. It’s worth the scary climb.

The parts of the building that are in worst condition are the front and rear offices. In both areas, the floors have completely rotted right through. The floors of the 2nd floor on top of the lobby are completely collapsed through now (no ceiling to the lobby any more).

Brian, I wasn’t able to find your e-mail on here. If you’d like to contact me at sugarton at gmail.com feel free to do so.

mortonbg on April 28, 2008 at 5:02 pm

One last comment for today.. The balcony of the Lyric was removed in 1940, and the fire exits were bricked up. You can still see this today on both sides of the building – the line of the original balcony, which clearly goes below what is the 1940’s cinema roof line. Again this is clearer on the blueprints.

In 1990 before the collapse, (which I am guessing happened within the last 5 years), only the very back of the balcony, what would have been called the mezzanine, was still there, there was part of what looked like a railing, with some steps, and there were the side walls of the Lyric with gold paint and stenciled decor. There was also a rickety wooden ladder that went up about 25 feet into a giant round air conditioning duct/intake. This led to a hatch that came out on the roof.

mortonbg on April 28, 2008 at 4:40 pm

The damage to the Century BTW is only to the first 20 feet of the building, and was the only part of the roof not replaced in renovations in 1955 – I have a copy of the blueprint for this renovation. I have also been in this space myself so I know exactly what I am talking about. Clearly there has been water damage to the lobby area and the former rooming/boarding house on the third floor is obviously uninhabitable, but these areas of the building had been abandoned even when Famous Players was still using it as a movie house. What is dooming the Century is not the damage to the building, rather a lack of any will to save it. The current owners just see it as a location for potential development, and are waiting for someone to come along and offer them money for the property. If holding onto it becomes to expensive, they will likely demolish it.

mortonbg on April 28, 2008 at 4:28 pm

Mark: I am much more hopeful about the Tivoli. It is a newer building, (built in 1924). Also the present owners the Canadian Youth Ballet intend to restore it as a theatre, see their website here. http://www.cbye.ca/ccampaign.htm Other then some water damage to the plaster on the SR side of the auditorium the Tivoli theatre is in good shape. It just needs the front of the building replaced in order to re-open again.
The Century, though much of its historic fabric was gutted in 1940, is historically a much more interesting building. As the centre of Kieth-Albee Vaudeville in Hamilton, many noted performers graced its stage, eg The Marx Brothers in Sept. 1919. Its stage was constructed for legitamante tehatre, and it was home to sveral “stock” companies who produced plays.