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Lost Memory, I’m curious how you discovered this unusual piece of information about the Robert-Theater Organ. The long article in the Somerville Journal the week the theatre opened in April 1923 makes elaborate mention of a large organ being installed but doesn’t identify the brand. It says simply:
“A huge pipe organ of multiple instruments is an outstanding feature. This organ is one of the costliest and best of its kind in New England. Manager Locatelli has engaged G. F. Fenton, an organist of wide experience, who will skillfully manipulate its keys, accompanying the carefully selected photoplays that will serve as the programme for the two weekly changes”
Thanks so much for sharing those wonderful memories. Unfortunately, Arthur Viano died around 2002 just before we began our Lost Theatres of Somerville Project. His widow, Val along with his two daughters were very generous in sharing their archives with us. For more on the Viano family, who were, as you indicate, Somerville’s most important theatre family, go to:
Look specifically at the section on the “Somerville Theatre 1926-present” where you will find photos of the Vianos as well as details about the family history. In addition, Val Viano has written an autobiography called “I Laughed, I Cried."
As for the ticket drawings, were all the prizes cash or were there objects as well? And can you remember how much cash was given out? In the 1930s the Somerville Theatre, like thousands of American theatres, had bank nights with increasing pots that could get as high as several thousand dollars. Did anyone out there ever participate in one of these?
For photographs and additional information on this theatre, go to:
Yes, I spoke to them and they’re very interested in including theater material in the decor of the new restaurant. Now to convince them to erect a new marquee. The original Ball Square sign was so beautiful!
Unforunately, Nick Riselli, who ran Cambridge Lock for years, died and the site will soon become the home of an enlarged Soundbites, the popular restaurant presently located directly across the street.
There is a dentist who occupies one of the offices in the front of the building. He not only bid on the theatre but sued the city when his bid was rejected in favor of Mudflat Studios'. The sale could not procede until the suit was settled which it evidently has been.
For photos and additional information on this theatre go to:
For photographs and additional information about this theatre, go to:
I think the Columbia Theatre and Puritan may have been the same. Elliot Norton claims it opened in 1891 and then Don King writes it had a fire in 1916 when it was called the South End Theatre. E. M. Loew had Thomas Lamb redesign it and the next year it reopened as the Columbia once again. Both of them state that it had a tall Moorish facade which is what the Nichan Bichajian photo of it in Lois Craig’s Images of Boston clearly shows. Once again, Norton claims it was located near the corner of Washington and Herald Street. Is this where you locate it, Ron? If so, the Columbia, South End, Puritan, and finally the Teatro Americano would all be the same.
The Broadway was actually built by a man named Hurst who funded construction by selling stock to the public. Each $10 share entitled the holder to one free movie a week for a full year. Hurst went bankrupt soon after opening in November 1915 which is when the Hoffman family, which also owned the Cross Street Orpheum, purchased it. In 1929, the Vianos took it over.