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Yes, with due respect to Mr. Ben Sunness, I really only posted to fill in the early dates of the theater’s history (also culled from the Press). I didn’t restate what Ben had posted, other than the bit about the 1962 fire, because I didn’t want to be duplicative – it was already upthread and in great detail. I only wanted to succintly fill in information that wasn’t already posted, about the pre-Jarvis era, and I just added the later bullet points for completion. I didn’t realize that my own post would used as the basis for the main entry about the theater. I’ve researched theaters in the Binghamton area as a hobby since ‘77, so I’ve just been trying to go through and fill in a few blanks, not just with this one but with others, so I was burning the midnight oil for several days finding press and pictures on various theaters. Glad to have the clarity, myself. BTW, I did try to go back last night and see if the Press had Sunness’ name originally listed as John when it was first sold, but the internet wasn’t cooperating. Doesn’t matter – it clearly was an error, either on their part in the article or mine, since Samuel Sunness is referenced as the owner from ‘37 onward on every other occasion. Glad we’re filling in some good information here!
Correction to the listing above; the theater didn’t close as a result of fire. There were two fires in ‘62 (one at the theater and one next door), closure happened in '63. Ben’s grandfather wanted to close in '61, and had planned to sell the theater to developers at that time, but relented because of community sentiment. This from news articles at the time.
Ben – may have been a typo either on my part or the news article. I was transcribing from an article in the Binghamton Press in 1937 recording the sale.
It is hard to track down the immediate post-theater history of the building because 193 Clinton Street (the 227 and 231 Clinton addresses seem to be eroneous – the Jan. 1934 licensing notice for the theater still shows its address as 193 Clinton) is associated with various business, particularly the restaurant business, both during its tenure as a theater and after. There’s reference to a nightclub/restaurant operating here in 1936, and the sale of restaurant fixtures in 1941, but based on the description to the latter this does does not appear to have been in the theater portion of the building.
Local book publisher Vail-Ballou had its warehouses in this vicinity; in a major 1944 expansion they purchased several lots, including the lots (said to be a garage and service station) at 189-191 Clinton. Since these were directly across from Charles Street this appears to be the same numbering then as now, and thus probably the same as the time the theater operated. It seems probable the theater building was also swallowed up in the 1940s as part of the Vail Ballou expansion of its plant, which included much of the block up to and including 193 Clinton. That plant’s subsequent demise almost certainly gave rise to the immense parking lot that now occupies most of the north side of this block. Vail Ballou went out of business, after 112 years, in 2012.
Short history of the Jarvis:
Late Dec. 1913 – opened as the Laurel Theater.
1920 – Acquired by George W. King
Mar. 1937 – sold to John Sunness, who remodels and changes name to Jarvis Theater.
Aug. 1961 – Sunness announces theater will be sold, but agrees to keep it open for a time in response to community protest.
Jan. 3, 1962 – Damage from fire in the theater (per comment above)
Nov. 11, 1962 – Damaged again from fire in next door furniture store.
July 30, 1963 – Theater closes.
An article reprinted in the South New Berlin Bee (!) from the Oxford Review Times indicates an opening for this theater of Nov. 15, 1937.
It wasn’t in that building, anyway. More likely where the Red Robin was, but either way the building is long gone.
The book “Candor” by Carol A. Henry reveals that the Candor Opera House, also called “Candor Hall,” was built sometime following the destruction by fire of a previous hall in 1888, and was in intermittent use until 1945 when it was converted to a grocery store, and as the Candor Market, at 82 Main Street, remains in use as such to this day.
Digging deeper into old newspaper clippings, I finally have more information on the Avon, and it apparently predates the Alhambra Opera House, albeit under a different name.
Opening date for the Avon itself was June 26, 1920 with “Turn Of The Wheel” hosting a packed house for two shows at 7 and 9 p.m. However, the theater was housed in a building known previously as Halbert’s Hall, which was described in 1913 as a functioning theater “with good stage scenery” (no doubt a diplomatic local boosting nod upon praising the stage at the new Alhambra).
There are myriad listings for various talent shows, rummage sales, dances, vaudeville and minstrel shows, meetings, political rallies, plays and, yes, movies for Halbert’s Hall dating back to at least 1896. A ticket office was put in in 1897. Several articles refer to the hall adjoining the I.O.O.F. lodge rooms, with the I.O.O.F. meeting there on occasion. An article about a narrowly-averted fire in 1913 indicates it was located “in the main business center of the town.”
After the Avon closed (probably in 1929 or 1930 with the changeover to sound), there is mention of the Hall being purchased in 1935 and being remodeled (with a new addition added) into a bowling alley called “the Bowl.” A change of ownership and reopening of the Bowl is noted in 1944. In 1947 the Cortland paper states that “The Cincinnatus Bowling Alley is closed for repairs.” In 1964 the Cortland paper further states that a “new bowling alley” is under construction on Taylor Avenue. Here the trail of the Halbert’s Hall/Avon Theater building ends.
Correction! This theater building has NOT been demolished. It is still standing. The website for the venerable Binghamton restaurant, Little Venice, indicates that they moved into the theater building in 1969, and they are still there today. It is indeed the same building pictured in the 4-24-61 issue of the Press. Current address is 111 Chenango. Should be changed to “retail” and my apologies for indicating the building had been torn down. It’s still there.
Great story Joe!
Here’s a photo. Believe it or not, this is what it looked like.
Great picture! The arch in the photo does indeed closely match (though is not the same as) the facade at what is currently 103 Court Street. Other building features seem to line up as well. It looks like a match. Chances are today’s arch and garage door facade are a remnant from the remodeling after the theater closed.
Amazing to see a picture of this mysterious old place.
Was in Liverpool to perform and took a look at this old cinema near where I was staying. What a great old building this is, sadly with foliage growing off the roof and top floor. Apparently it is slated for demolition and there is an effort underway to save it. A sign on the front of the building directs those interested to go to change.org and search for “futurist liverpool” and sign a petition.
Comments on the Cortland County Historical Society Facebook page state that this building later became the Cincinnatus Hotel and later “Geno’s,” suggesting the building survived for many years after its use as an opera house.
Ads appear in the Cortland Standard for the Park Theatre up until 1951. It may have closed that year.
The owner of the antique shop currently occupying this address confirms that the building dates from the 1920s and never housed a movie theater.
I visited Cincinnatus today looking for possible buildings that could have housed the Avon Theater; the only candidate I could see is the former town hall building, which does have the right dimensions.
I visited Mt. Upton this week and the suspect building I referenced above appears to have been an outbuilding/garage for the neighboring larger house. What appeared to be poster boards on googlemaps are windows, and there is a garage opening in the center. While it’s possible there was a nickelodeon theater in this building (it’s the right shape and size), there’s no evidence that was the case.
There’s only one other building in town that is the right dimensions to have been an opera house (second and third floors), but there’s no evidence of there having been an outside opening to the upstairs, so chances are this theater and the opera house (whether they are the same or different entities) have been demolished.
Visited Cincinnatus today and judging by old photos the site of the old Alhambra Opera House is now occupied by the fire station.
A good starting point would be to search the specific search string “Whitney Point Opera House” into the database of old Binghamton Press issues that you found on the Fulton Postcards site. That should assure you that such an opera house did, indeed, exist (and as Joe and I have suggested, was very probably the same hall that later housed the Point Theater).
Sigh The 1961 closing date was a possibly inaccurate memory from 30 years ago. I said as much, above. That said, I am pretty sure the recollection of the 1967 closing date (the date of the fire) is not correct. The reasons are that the Binghamton Press article about the building burning down does not mention a theater at all, and I am clear that when I did the research in ‘78, the Greene theater, which closed in late spring '67, was the last small town theater around. Having said that, all the rest of the stuff I have posted is easily confirmed by searching online. It is from primary sources; a gazeteer from the era, the Whitney Point Reporter special edition from after the fire, and the Binghamton Press database which you have already found (which also has listings for the other area papers, which also has information about the theaters in Whitney Point. I did multiple searches on the internet to gather this information. Meaning no disrespect to your research team, but none of them were alive (or at least past infancy) during the period in question, pre-1931 or so. Do the same searches I did, and you’ll find the same information. I think you have done a great job solving the mystery, but all the information I have posted above is easily verifiable. I recommend you check it all out, because you’ve done a terrific job completing the picture on this theater and the People’s Theater. If you are in the area, the Whitney Point Reporter archives should be searchable on microfilm in the local library. All the definitive answers lie there. Good luck!
Incidentally, my dad used to run the paper in Whitney Point, I grew up in Greene, and I made a study of old theaters when I was a kid…so I do know the area pretty well. :)