19 Main Street,
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This classic Art Deco showplace first opened its doors on Main Street in Jaffrey, located in the southwestern corner in the Monadnock Region of New Hampshire in 1929. For almost fifty years it operated as a movie house, occasionally presenting vaudeville acts that traveled to the area and beyond from Boston.
Featuring four WPA (Works Progress Administration) murals painted in 1940 – the Four Seasons of Mt. Monadnock as seen from each town surrounding the Mountain – and boasting superb sight lines and acoustics, this gem of a theatre lies in waiting to entertain us, after 29 years in darkness.
While closed since the mid 70s, the original ticket booth, poster cases and Art Deco doors, above which is a frieze of black Italian marble, are all intact. The current owners, who operate a bike shop on the premises, are planning to retire and have entered into an agreement with The Park Theatre Committee, which is dedicated to restoring and reopening this historic venue.
Speaking of movie history, it was at the Park in the summer of 1952 where I saw KING KONG for the first time in one of its many reissues by RKO. Needless to say, it is an event that made a lasting impression on me.
The Park Theatre was the brainchild of Romolo Vanni, who was born in Italy in 1885, emigrating to the United States in 1899. In 1912, at the age of 27, he made his first real estate purchase in Jaffrey. Volume II of the Town History describes him as “a man of unusual business ability and enterprise.”
It was in 1915 that Mr. Vanni purchased the property on Main Street, the present location of the Park Theatre, which he built in 1929. In addition to using this address as his residence, he believed in diversification, opening a store specializing in fruits and vegetables on the site. In addition, he raised chickens in a building beside the theatre, and was well known for his vintage wine, which he produced in his basement. Theatre patrons of the time recall enjoying the aroma of fermenting grapes while they were attending a movie.
Much has been accomplished and more needs to be done if the arc lamps are to be lit again in this historic theatre, which entertained the surrounding communities in the region for decades. Once restored, the 600-seat 1929 movie house will be operated as a nonprofit entity and will become the venue for first run movies, professional and locally produced plays, concerts, school and college productions, town meetings and more.
Total funds raised as of this writing are $165,000.00, towards the purchase price of $220,000.00. With just $55,000.00 to go, if you are so moved, you can help turn the lights back on at the Park Theatre by sending your tax-deductible contribution to: The Park Theatre Fund, P.O. Box 278, Jaffrey, NH 03452-0278.
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