RKO Keith's Theatre

410 S. Salina Street,
Syracuse, NY 13202

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Showing 1 - 25 of 28 comments

dontforgetus on January 9, 2014 at 5:25 pm

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.

Greenpoint on September 20, 2012 at 8:26 pm

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

ESTMIM on April 11, 2011 at 10:40 am

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)

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on April 10, 2011 at 4:40 pm

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

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on April 10, 2011 at 4:35 pm

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

SchineHistorian on April 10, 2011 at 3:28 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.”

WilliamMcQuade on April 9, 2011 at 4:15 pm

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 9, 2011 at 2:13 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 9, 2011 at 7:23 am

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 5:07 am

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

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on April 8, 2011 at 7:53 pm

This photo was posted on a Facebook group dedicated to memories of places in my hometown of NYC, but I believe it depicts the Syracuse Keith’s. I don’t see any movie titles on the marquee… looks like a stage show all the way. Not sure when to date this, but figure it is likely from the late 1940’s or early 1950’s?

syrnostalgic on October 8, 2010 at 7:59 pm

Yes, during the State Fair, each year, I pump away at the little museum’s player pie-anah (my chosen paino roll is always “Nola,” being, as it is, “of the period”). I believe that this piano, and a nickelodeon there, were originally on loan from the long-gone Deansboro Music Museum (which housed all kinds of nickelodeons, music boxes, you name it).

I wish I could have talked with and known Jim Foley.

But all is not lost : since posting my first letter here, I have been inside another Thomas Lamb theater : Proctor’s in Schenectady, NY. Built in 1926, and beautifully restored and maintained, it’s a VERY close cousin to the Syracuse Keith’s, and, if anything, even more grand. Proctor’s is mostly used for live concerts, and nextdoor is a modern “IMAX”-type facility for current “flickers.”

SchineHistorian on October 8, 2010 at 5:54 am

Ahhh the glorious marquee! Notice the smaller RKO stained glass medallion on the corner of the marquee? Two of those were in the Foley collection. One resides proudly in the ESTMIM museum and one in my home as one of the prized items in my personal Schine collection. This photo is mounted on the wall next to it.

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on October 7, 2010 at 7:58 pm

Ken mc thanks for the picture.

SchineHistorian on October 7, 2010 at 1:40 pm

The RKO Keith Theater was proudly part of the Schine Chain at one time. Many artifacts from the theater were acquired by Jim Foley, a Syracuse collector when it was demolished. Jim displayed these items along with countless other theater artifacts in his home museum until his death. At that time, the Foley family entrusted me to sort, catalog and disburse the items as i saw appropriate.

Many of the RKO Keith items are now residing at the aforementioned Empire State Theatre & Musical Instrument Museum located in the Art & Home Center building on the New York State Fairgrounds. That building also proudly houses the pipe organ that was rescued just ahead of demolition by the ESTMIM gang. Organ concerts are given regularly and the museum room is always open during intermission.

The organ and museum are also an unlikely but highly attended attraction during the yearly State Fair! Young and old make it a point to visit each year with the major draw being the player piano. The ESTMIM members generously allow anyone whose feet will reach the pedals to select a roll and pump away at their favorite song.

syrnostalgic on June 13, 2009 at 10:35 pm

Great photo – thanks !!! In 1933 I wasn’t born for another 26 years, but even I can sense the atmosphere of it…Sort of “We’ll beat this Depression ‘cuz AINT’T WE GOT GLITZ.”

syrnostalgic on May 12, 2009 at 6:16 pm


Dear Tom,

Here in Syracuse we still have the honor of a 1928 Thomas Lamb theater, the Landmark (i.e. Loew’s). It was one of 5 or 6 theaters that once made South Salina Street an Upstate Broadway. But just a few doors South of it was another Lamb theater – the B.F. Keith’s. It was as beautifully Neoclassic as Loew’s is posh Baroque/Near Eastern exotic. (I’m not a formally trained student of architecture, so no doubt I’m getting my stylistic categories wrong, but I’m sure you get my drift.) Anyhow, I remember the Syracuse Keith’s – God, she was a beauty. It’s “face” on the west side of South Salina Street was a huge, fan-shaped set of windows. Its interior was mostly white wood (?), and its acoustics were known to be fabulous. It opened on January 26, 1920 with vaudevile star Belle Baker as the main attraction. It remained till 1967, when, during the ugly, bone-headed days of Urban Renewal, it (she !) and two blocks' worth of lively, varied storefronts were demolished for a big 4-story department store which itself is now “sleeping with the fishes.” (I was 7 years old when it was taken down.) The Keith’s huge Wurlitzer organ was saved, though, and now resides in the Empire Theater on the State Fair Grounds), along with some other Keith’s artifacts. Although the Keith’s seated almost 2000, and there was talk even back then of the need for a new Civic Center to house the Syracuse Symphony, still, the Old Girl was demolshed anyway. So-o-o-…less than a decade later, we had to build a new Civic Center which ended up with “OK” acoustics and nowhere near the beauty. It seems that restoration just wasn’t “interesting” enough to the leadership of the time. (On the other hand, laying in new concrete…You get the idea.)

Anyhow, are you (or anyone reading this) aware if the Syracuse Keith’s had any surviving “twins” or “sisters” or even “close cousins” elsewhere? If so I’d love to make a pilgrimage.

my web address : [e-mail]



kencmcintyre on April 2, 2009 at 3:30 pm

Here is part of a June 1965 article in the Syracuse Herald Journal:

Dean Robinson of Penn Yan, who delighted local music lovers last year with an informal concert on the giant Loew’s Theater organ, will appear again on June 17 to put the newly-restored RKO Keith’s organ through its paces. Robinson, who plays regularly for a well-known Penn Yan supper club, has been engaged by the fledgling Syracuse Theater Organ Society, which is seeking to save the Keith’s organ for Syracuse.

This instrument is the only one of its kind left in the Syracuse area. The Loew’s organ has been sold to California interests. Officials of the association will solicit assistance from local people in their campaign to keep the organ here. Persons who are interested will be asked to join the society.

The RKO Keith’s theater will be razed in about a year, but measures to save the organ must be taken before that time. Association officials estimate that about $10,000 will be needed to finance purchase of the organ and removal from the theater. The Keith’s organ was restored by a small group of theater organ enthusiasts, under the direction of Paul Fleming. The men spent more than a year working on the instrument’s maze of switches, circuits, pipes and sound effects.

kencmcintyre on December 7, 2008 at 5:42 pm

That’s a determined bunch of shoppers.

mp775 on December 7, 2008 at 5:39 pm

The RKO Keith’s can be seen in the background of this 1950s photo, featured in this year’s Syracuse Post-Standard’s “Memories of Christmas Past” feature.

kencmcintyre on September 21, 2007 at 7:33 am

Here is a 1948 ad from the Syracuse Post-Standard:

SWFLguy on June 9, 2007 at 6:00 pm

Now those were theaters ! I have great memories of going to places like RKO Keith’s to see
a movie or two !!

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on May 21, 2007 at 11:29 am

Here is a link to some wonderful photographs of the RKO Keith’s Theatre – courtesy of Phillip A. Edwards (click on photos to enlarge):

spectrum on May 21, 2007 at 10:02 am

Seating capacity is 2,514 according to the FilmTV Daily Yearbook of 1936. A lot of photos of the RKO Keith’s are on a page in the Empire State Theatre and Musical Instruments Museum’s web page- the Keith’s page is at: http://www.jrjunction.com/keiths.htm It’s quite a beautiful classically designed ornate palace. Two level lobby with oval balcony looking out over the lower lobby. Another inner promenade has a circular balcony looking out over the back section of the orchestra seats. It’s a shame this place was demolished!