RKO Keith's Theatre

410 S. Salina Street,
Syracuse, NY 13202

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Christmas 1956 photo courtesy of the AmeriCar The Beautiful Facebook page.

Built in 1919, B.F. Keith’s New Theatre was opened on January 20, 1920. It was billed as “The Most Magnificent Theatre In All The Universe”. A large painted sign on the north side of the building said “B.F. Keith’s New Theatre Devoted To High Class Vaudeville”. In 1925 the Wurlitzer Co. installed a 3 manual 11 rank theatre pipe organ, opus 1143.

Unfortunately, the theatre was torn down in 1967 due to urban renewal. Many of the theatre’s furnishings and equipment still survives as part of the Empire State Theatre and Musical Instrument Museum. The Wurlitzer was removed, restored and permanently installed in the Empire Theatre on the New York State Fairgrounds in Syracuse, New York.

Contributed by Philip A. Edwards

Recent comments (view all 28 comments)

SchineHistorian on April 9, 2011 at 1:07 pm

Right, right, RIGHT you are Ed! This is Syracuse. Date? Let me ask an expert and I’ll post his reply.

WilliamMcQuade on April 9, 2011 at 3:23 pm

I knew Jim Foley well. He was one of the best friends you could have. I have great memories of him. He took me on a tour of the Landmark when I visited him


SchineHistorian on April 9, 2011 at 10:13 pm

It was a tremendous honor to be one of Jim’s pallbearers. He and his wife Irene truly took me under their wing when I was a young, idealistic and enthusiastic theater lover so very long ago. Today I owe a great deal to Jim’s mentoring.

WilliamMcQuade on April 10, 2011 at 12:15 am

The stories old Jim used to tell when he worked backstage during vaudevilee were priceless.Who knew Moe of the 3 Stooges like to knit?

SchineHistorian on April 10, 2011 at 11:28 pm

In response to Ed Solero’s photo and question on the date of the photo, here is the response from ESTMIM who currently owns the organ: “Easy question! The exact date was June 14 ,1966. The Glimpse of the Past program was one of the last times the Wurlitzer was used in the theatre for a public performance. This program was basically a fundraiser to purchase the instrument and move it out of the theatre, which was demolished in 1967. We have in our archives the “order form” paper for the wording on the Marquee.”

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on April 11, 2011 at 12:35 am

Wow… A lot later than I thought. Glad we were able to get that resolved so quickly! Thanks, Schine!

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on April 11, 2011 at 12:40 am

You know… I wonder how well the program sold? How many of the 2548 seats were filled that evening?

ESTMIM on April 11, 2011 at 6:40 pm

The “Glimpse of the Past” program was sold out, literally. The seats were “reserved only”. On display in the museum is a photograph taken that night from stage right looking out into the audience. In the foreground Luella Wickham is performing on the Wurlitzer. We also have an audio recording of that program featuring master of ceremonies Deacon Doubleday, of the Wired Woodshed program AM 57 WSYR radio. Our museum has plans to have the recording digitally remastered and make it available to the public. Most interesting fact is, Carleton James who was the original organist in 1925-? at this theatre accompanied a silent film for the “Glimpse of the Past” program. Because of that, the program really was a “Glimpse….."
ESTMIM President(2011)

Greenpoint on September 21, 2012 at 4:26 am

That theatre must have been so ornate, my heart breaks for its loss.

dontforgetus on January 10, 2014 at 1:25 am

Ok, I remember the RKO theater{Keith’s]. I think I was 4yrs old, when I won a watch, for a contest they had in the early 50’s. I was scared when I had to go up on stage, so my Grandma took me. I don’t have the watch now, but years later, I had a Dance recital there. It was big to me, being about 7yrs, I wore a blue and yellow ballet outfit, and had to put make-up on for the first time.

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