Comments from Joe Vogel

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Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Town Hall Theater on Dec 23, 2014 at 1:49 pm

A book published in 1902 describes the Town Hall and Opera House in Lowville, built in 1899 and designed by Leon H. Lempert & Son:

“THE NEW TOWN HALL.

“This building was built at the expense of the town by virtue of a special act of the legislature, and a large majority vote of the electors of the town, in 1899, at a cost of about $25,000. By virtue of said act of the legislature the management was vested in the town board, consisting of Ira Sharp, supervisor, W. H. Egleton, Jay C. Bardo, L. B. Searls and Frank E. Groodell, justices of the peace, and a committee consisting of George Sherwood, Charles S. Mereness, E. S. K. Merrell, Eugene Arthur and Julian H. Wood.

“The building is constructed so as to be used for town hall and opera house purposes. It is said to be one of the best opera houses in this section of the country. It has a seating capacity of about 1,000. It is built of brick of various colors. The scenery and stage are fine, and has grand electric illumination. It is in the interior one of the most beautifully finished buildings in Northern New York, and furnishes a place for fun, entertainment, pleasure and instruction.”

The facade of the building above the first floor appears to still be pretty much as Lempert designed it, but the interior was completely remodeled by Michael DeAngelis in 1949, along with the ground floor exterior. Here is a fresh link to the December 3, 1949, Boxoffice article about the remodeling, to replace the dead link in one of my earlier comments.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Amsterdam Opera House on Dec 23, 2014 at 12:57 pm

The Amsterdam Opera House is on a list of theaters designed by Leon H. Lempert & Son that was published in the 1906-1907 Cahn guide. I haven’t been able to establish a time line for it, but the theater was in operation by 1892 and the building had been converted into a department store by the late 1930s.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Sampson Theatre on Dec 23, 2014 at 12:28 pm

There are some photos of the Sampson Theatre on this web page, along with a speculative computer rendering of what the interior might have looked like (no period photos or drawings of the interior are known to survive.) The Sampson Theatre opened on October 12, 1910, and was designed by its owner, Dr. Frank Sampson, with local architect Frank Harrison serving as consultant. The original seating capacity was over 900.

The page has links to three news items, two from 1910 and one from 1984, and to a “Photo tour” section which has photos from 2007, when some rehabilitation work was going on. There is also a rough floor plan showing the original seating configuration.

The Sampson Theatre was the successor to the Sheppard Opera House, aka Yates Lyceum, located nearby, which opened in 1890 and was destroyed by a fire in 1907.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Strand Theatre on Dec 23, 2014 at 10:27 am

Items in various issues of The American Contractor in late 1913 reveal that the Strand Theatre was designed by Leon H. Lempert, Jr.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Avon Theatre on Dec 23, 2014 at 10:04 am

This PDF file has scans of what appear to be photocopies of drawings, plans, and photos of, and text about, the City Opera House, taken from various period sources.

Information about the house in the file includes the fact that it opened on January 4, 1886; that the architect of the building was John W. Griffin, of Watertown; and that the auditorium and stage sets were designed by Leon H. Lempert, who is credited as a “Scenic Designer.” In 1884, Lempert had received a patent on a design for auditorium floors that greatly improved sight lines over previous designs, which is illustrated in the file.

This web page, which is where I found the PDF, has extensive information about early theaters in Buffalo, along with a section about Leon H. Lempert & Son. There are links to quite a few other PDFs which I haven’t examined yet.

Although Lempert had designed several auditoriums prior to 1885, it wasn’t until that year that he founded his own architectural firm. Lempert, Jr. joined the firm in 1891. Lempert, Sr. semi-retired in 1906, and died in 1909. The Avon should be attributed to Leon H. Lempert, Sr.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Plaza Theatre on Dec 22, 2014 at 7:20 pm

Levine is a fairly common surname, so there were probably other stores called Levine’s around the country that were unrelated to the Texas chain. A store called Levine’s located next door to a theater operated by Levine Theatrical Enterprises might even have been a coincidence.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about New Grand Theatre on Dec 22, 2014 at 6:59 pm

Variety of June 2, 1916, had this item:

“The Grand, Johnstown, N. Y., is to be remodeled into a modern theatre, with the seating capacity increased 400, while all new dressing rooms will be built.”
I suspect that the house was renamed the New Grand following this 1916 remodeling. The addition of “New” to a theater’s name was fairly common after a major remodeling.

The Grand Opera House in Johnstown is on a list of theaters designed by the Rochester firm Leon H. Lempert & Son that was published in the 1906-1907 edition of the Cahn guide. A History of Fulton County published in 1892 also attributes the design to Leon H. Lempert.

The theater already advertised itself as the Grand Opera House in the July 28, 1890, issue of The Daily Republican, the year after it opened. It’s likely that it was never called the Johnstown Opera House. This is the text of an advertisement that appeared in multiple issue of The New York Dramatic Mirror in the summer of 1889:

“JOHNSTOWN, N Y. NEW GRAND OPERA HOUSE.

“TO THE PROFESSION.

“The new and elegant ground-floor Opera House now being built at Johnstown, N. Y., will be one of the handsomest and most complete theatres in the State, will be ready for business about Oct. 10th, and will play first class attractions only. Johnstown now numbers about 10,000 inhabitants and is certainly one of the best show towns in the State, situated 40 miles west of Albany and Troy. The designing and building of our new house has been placed in the hands of Leon N. Lempert, of Rochester, N. Y., which is sufficient guarantee of its being first-class in every respect. The house will be furnished with all modern improvements. Electric Lighting, Gas, Electric Spark, Electric Call Bells, Speaking Tubes, 12 Large Dressing Rooms, 17 sets of Scenery, large number of Set Pieces; Stage 41 by 64 feet, full set of traps; 41 feet from Stage to Fly Gallery; 42 feet between Fly Galleries; 4 elegant Boxes, Orchestra Circle, Dress Circle, Balcony and Gallery, elegant Opera Chairs. Seating capacity 1,200. Ventilation good. Heated by steam. We can play any attraction on the road to first-class business. No passes to stockholders or city officers. Wanted—A Good Attraction for the opening for two or three nights on a certainty. Address C. H. BALL, Secy.”

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Towne Theatre on Dec 22, 2014 at 5:47 pm

This is the report from the January 7, 1928, issue of Motion Picture News on the destruction by fire of Smalley’s Theatre in Johnstown, New York:

“Fire Destroys Smalley’s Johnstown House

“Smalley’s theatre in Johnstown, N. Y., operated by William Smalley, of Cooperstown, owner of a chain of a dozen or more motion picture theatres, in New York state, was burned to the ground on the afternoon of January 1, with the resultant loss of over $200,000. The fire was one of the most spectacular in many months in the Mohawk Valley. Firemen from both Johnstown and Gloversville fought the blaze for three hours or more with zero temperature prevailing. The blaze is thought to have originated from a defective pipe in the boiler room. It was discovered about one-half hour before the matinee. The fire was then working its way through the floor and the crackling was noticed by the janitor and the house electrician, the only two persons who were in the theatre at the time.

“The theatre was built in 1889 and was being operated by Mr. Smalley under a twenty-year lease. There was over 11,000 feet of film stored in the booth and this added impetus to the flames as they swept upward and through the building. Adjoining structures were also damaged.”

Although the report says that the house was burned to the ground, the front section of the building must have survived. The building now at this address is in the Queen Anne style, popular in the 1870s and 1880s. This web page has a photo of Smalley’s that must have dated from before the fire, as it shows the building with four bay windows across the front instead of the three it now has. The site of the demolished bay, which was occupied by the theater’s entrance, is now occupied by an alley.

It’s likely that the original auditorium of the theater was completely destroyed by the fire, but the facade in the vintage photo is clearly the same one that is still partly intact. However, Google’s satellite view shows that a parking lot has replaced the theater’s auditorium. The awkward placement of the four bays seen in the vintage photo suggests that the original theater was built behind an existing structure, and the fourth bay was added to accommodate the theater entrance at that time. The new auditorium must have occupied the same spot, but it too has now been demolished.

I think that the Smalley’s Theatre destroyed in 1928 was the former Johnstown Opera House/Grand Opera House, just as the page with the vintage photo says it was. The MPN article says that Smalley’s had been built in 1889, which is the right time for it to have been the Opera house. The original Opera House was designed by Leon H. Lempert, but I haven’t been able to discover who designed Smalley’s New Johnstown Theatre which replaced it.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Plaza Theatre on Dec 22, 2014 at 5:35 pm

Comparing the map and satellite views with the photo David uploaded, I suspect that Colley Avenue was drastically realigned at some point. The photo shows a straight street, and the modern street curves. I suspect that the street now called Children’s Lane, in the middle of the Sentara General Hospital grounds and EVMS campus, is the old alignment of Colley Avenue. That would mean that the actual site of the Plaza Theatre would now be at least partly under the footprint of the Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters, on Children’s Lane north of Olney Road.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Avon Theatre on Dec 22, 2014 at 3:15 pm

The City Opera House at Watertown is on a list of theaters designed by Leon H. Lempert & Son that was published in the 1906-1907 edition of the Cahn guide.

This web page has an early postcard of the City Opera House, a three-story brick building with a fourth floor mansard in the style popular when it was built around 1885.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Broad Theatre on Dec 22, 2014 at 2:36 pm

The Empire Theatre in Rochester is on a list of theaters designed by Leon H. Lempert & Son that was published in the 1906-1907 edition of the Cahn guide.

An article in the September 9, 1899, issue of the Mount Carmel, Pennsylvania, Daily News referred to the Empire Theatre as “Rochester’s new playhouse.”

The movie of the first complete boxing match filmed with electric lights, the Jeffries-Sharkey bout of November 3, 1899, was shown at the Empire. This might have been the first time a movie was shown at the house.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Darling Theatre on Dec 22, 2014 at 1:40 pm

The Darling Theatre in Gloversville was on a list of theaters designed by Leon H. Lempert & Son that was published in the 1906-1907 edition of the Cahn guide.

There is a photo of the Darling Theatre on page 103 of Gloversville, by Lewis G. Decker (Google Books preview.) The text says the Darling was located on Elm Street opposite Middle Street.

The Darling Theatre was showing movies at least as early as April, 1913, when this item appeared in The Moving Picture World:

“Several Massachusetts exhibitors are leaving that territory, to try their fortune in New York State. W. 0. Youngsou, formerly manager of the Bijou Theater, North Adams, Mass., has formed a partnership with Lewis J. Cody, and William C. O'Brien who sometime ago was in charge of the Bijou. The Darling Theater of Gloversville. N. Y.. has been leased by the new concern. Mr. O'Brien has lately been in charge of the Emily Theater, of Gloversville, but has now resigned in order to guide the Darling Theater.”

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Carrollton Theater on Dec 22, 2014 at 12:05 pm

Mary Lou Widmer’s New Orleans in the Thirties says that the Carrollton Theatre opened in 1936, replacing an earlier house of the same name that had burned in 1935. The original Carrollton was in operation by 1916, when it was mentioned in the February 26 issue of The Moving Picture World.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Capitol Theatre on Dec 22, 2014 at 11:49 am

The Capitol was demolished in 1928 and replaced by the Pekin Theatre. Despite their different addresses, the Capitol’s lot became part of the larger Pekin Theatre’s site.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Capitol Theatre on Dec 22, 2014 at 8:36 am

A souvenir booklet called The Pekin Centenary published in 1949 says that the Capitol Theatre was originally the Turner Opera House, and was later renamed the Standard Theatre before becoming the Capitol, operated by a Mrs. Anna Fluegel. The booklet also reveals the fate of the Capitol:

“In 1928, Mrs. Fluegel caused the Capitol theater (the old opera house building) to be razed and she erected the present $250,000 Pekin theater building, constructed in the Chinese motif.”
The Standard itself had been rebuilt in 1913, as noted in this item from the October 18 issue of The Moving Picture World:
“O. W. Frederick, whom I saw at the Illinois convention in Peoria, is building a new theater in Pekin, Ill., which he expects will be finished in time for Thanksgiving opening. This theater, the old Standard of Pekin, will be all new except the walls when completed. It will seat 600 people and the cost of remodeling and re-equipment, etc., will be $24,000. O. W. Frederick is one of the members of the grievance committee formed at the Peoria convention.”
The Turner Opera House was built in 1890. It had been renamed the Standard Theatre by 1908, when the Cahn guide listed it as a ground-floor house with 736 seats.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Patio Theatre on Dec 21, 2014 at 5:21 pm

The Patio’s web site says the house is closed this Monday, but it has show times listed for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. No reason is given for the Monday closing.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Alden Theatre on Dec 21, 2014 at 5:20 pm

high_performance_76 is correct about the 1932 reopening of the Alden Theatre as a movie house. An item in the “Satety Harbor” column of the April 20, 1932, issue of the St.Petersburg Evening Independent says that the Alden Theatre was to reopen on May 2. The house had not shown movies for two years. An April 1 item in the same paper indicated that the house had never been equipped for sound.

The theater had not been entirely dark for the entire two years though. It hosted at least a few live events. The March 19 St. Petersburg Times said that a “good crowd” had attended a performance of the Chick Dramatic Company at the Alden Theatre the previous Tuesday. The December 23 issue of the Evening Independent reported a benefit at the Alden featuring a “…Biblical topic…illustrated by slides….” followed by musical selections and specialties by local talent. A play put on by the local chapter of the Eastern Star drew a full house at the Alden, according to the March 2, 1931, Evening Independent. A number of other such events were reported by the newspapers during this period.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Rialto Theater on Dec 21, 2014 at 1:42 pm

The Hippodrome must have been a combination house from the beginning, not just a vaudeville theater. It is mentioned at least twice in The Moving Picture World in 1913.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Burbank Theatre on Dec 20, 2014 at 9:43 pm

The December 10, 1938, issue of Boxoffice said that Al Minor had bought the Burbank Theatre from the Jimmy Edwards circuit. The acquisition gave Minor control of all three movie houses in Burbank.

Architect H. J. Knauer’s first name was Henry.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Grand Theater on Dec 20, 2014 at 8:50 pm

The Indiana Historical Society provides this early photo of Linton’s Grand Opera House. The theater was on the ground floor, the second floor was occupied by the Moose lodge, and the third floor had a ballroom.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Cine Theater on Dec 20, 2014 at 8:15 pm

Article with photos of the Cine Theatre in Boxoffice, December 10, 1938:

Page 1

Page 2

Page 3

The article gives the opening date of the Cine as October 19, 1938. The Scherer brothers, owners of the new house, had entered the busness at Linton with the Nicklo Theatre 26 years earlier. Later they operated the Sher-Ritz and the Grand Theatres.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Iowa Theater on Dec 19, 2014 at 2:39 pm

Here is news of the Hippodrome from the July 22, 1922, issue of The Moving Picture World:

“Keokuk Hippodrome Is Being Remodeled

“The Baker-Dodge Theatre, Inc., operating the Hippodrome and Grand Theatres, of Keokuk, are now remodeling the former house.

“The Hippodrome building covers an area of fifty by one hundred and forty feet and practically the entire interior of the house is being torn out.

“The present long, deep lobby will be replaced with one of less depth but wider. A new balcony will be constructed and when finished, the total seating capacity of both orchestra and balcony will be 1,300.

“The cost of the improvements, it is estimated, will be between $15,000 and $20,000.

“On reopening, the name of the Hippodrome will be changed to a shorter and more suitable one, which has not yet been selected.”

In 1917, The Hippodrome was bucking the trend to higher admission prices in movie theaters, according to the March 3 issue of MPW:
“Hippodrome Battles for 5-Cent Admission.

“Keokuk, Ia. — The three motion picture theaters in Keokuk are having a war on prices. The Grand started the trouble when it raised prices to twenty-five cents on regular feature nights, when showing Paramount, Metro and Triangle. Soon after the Orpheum joined forces with the Garden and on the only three nights, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, that they are open, they, too, charged twenty-five cents for feature subjects. The opposition, the Hippodrome, is battling hard, showing the biggest features it can secure for only five cents.”

The earliest mention of the Hippodrome I’ve found is from The New York Clipper of December 6, 1913. The earliest reference to the Regent I’ve found is an appearance by the Denishawn Dance Company on February 28, 1924, but the name was most likely adopted immmediately following the 1922 remodeling.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Rialto Theatre on Dec 18, 2014 at 11:22 am

I’ve found the Rialto mentioned in the trade publications in the latter part of 1917.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Majestic Theatre on Dec 18, 2014 at 11:05 am

The August 27, 1910, issue of The Billboard listed the Majestic Theatre in Kewanee as part of Thielen’s Illinois Vaudeville Circuit. The April 5, 1913, issue of The Moving Picture World said that the Majestic was to be remodeled:

“Improvements at the Majestic theater and at the new theater which will be run by Chris Taylor in Kewanee were held up pending the revision of a local ordinance regarding theaters. West contemplates putting in a new front and general re-arrangement of the theater.”
Mr. Taylor’s new theater opened a few weeks later as the Tabard. In 1913, Kewanee also had houses called the Grand Theatre (probably the former Grand Opera House,) the Dreamland, the Bijou, the Willard, and the Olympia (formerly the Princess) Theatre.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel commented about Norval Theatre on Dec 18, 2014 at 9:24 am

There are web sites listing 5306 Storer Avenue as the location of the Rolen Bros. Fence Company, and it’s also listed simply as Fence Warehouse. The company’s web site gives a different address for the business, so they might have moved since those listings went up, though this building could still be their warehouse.

This modern exterior photo shows the fence company’s sign on the building, but it isn’t there in Google Street View. As the building has been used as a warehouse the seats were undoubtedly removed long ago. The floor might even have been leveled. I’ve been unable to find any interior photos, historical or modern.