Old Howard Theatre

32 Howard Street,
Scollay Square,
Boston, MA 02108

Unfavorite 3 people favorited this theater

Old Howard Theatre

Viewing: Photo | Street View

Boston’s most famous (some would say notorious) theatre, the Old Howard opened in 1846 and evolved from legitimate theatre to vaudeville to burlesque and finally to striptease.

A movie screen was installed around 1912, to provide entertainment during hours when the performers were not on stage — probably before noon, and between 5 and 8 pm.

City censors closed the Old Howard in November 1953, and it never reopened. The city made plans to tear it down, along with the rest of Scollay Square, to make way for a new Government Center. A committee formed with the aim of saving the Old Howard and turning it into a national theatre museum, but a mysterious fire gutted it on June 20, 1961. It was torn down that same day.

Contributed by Ron Newman

Recent comments (view all 42 comments)

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on May 8, 2012 at 11:31 am

The “Patriot Ledger Archives” section of the May 7th Quincy Patriot Ledger has a summary of an article with photo from the Q-PL of May 10, 1962. It seems that a local contractor from Weymouth purchased the granite rubble from the demolition of the Old Howard which was then underway. In a cornerstone, which he claims weighed 9 tons, he found a sealed lead box. There were a number of items in the box including a copy, in good condition, of the Boston Daily Atlas newspaper from 1846. There is no mention of the other items in the box.

DavidKruh on May 8, 2012 at 1:54 pm

Ron, does it mention the contractor’s name?

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on May 9, 2012 at 11:01 am

David- the contractor was Richard R. Jancaterino, age 34 in 1962, of South Weymouth, married to Elaine. He was self-employed and got 140 tons of granite from the demolition site.

DavidKruh on May 11, 2012 at 12:33 pm

Ron, I have the answer! I found Richard, who is now retired and living in Florida. We spoke a short while ago and he confirms that yes, he did find the cornerstone and that he sold it – and its contents – to Frank Hatch. I’m sure you’ll agree that mean it is in very good hands, with a family that appreciates the value of the artifacts.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on May 12, 2012 at 10:41 am

David- It’s always nice to hear that such artifacts have been preserved in good hands.

sweetmel on May 19, 2012 at 10:37 pm

That map is wrong. It should show center plaza in Boston not, howard street in roxbury. I’ve been to the west end museum in boston so I have a good idea where it was.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on May 20, 2012 at 4:52 am

Yes, the map is wrong because Google automatically generated it from the street address, and Howard Street no longer exists in downtown Boston. I don’t know how to fix this.

somerbd on August 13, 2012 at 6:06 pm

Hello if anyone knows how to get in contact with some with a relic or sign from The Old Howard please let me know. Rufus AL SOmerby was my grand father and he managed in 1930’s and 1940’s thanks

DavidKruh on August 14, 2012 at 4:47 pm

The Hatch family still has several treasures from the OH. They still live in Maine. I have a few bits of ephemera, see my Scollay Square website for my direct contact info, I’d love to chat with you, anyway, about your grandfather and the OH.


rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on July 6, 2015 at 11:52 am

In a Feb. 1903 issue of the New York Clipper, a theatrical trade paper, there is an ad for the Old Howard, listing their show for the week of Feb. 23, 1903. The ad lists the name of their New York representative, and has two slogans: “American’s Oldest Variety and Burlesque Theatre” and “Always Something Doing 1PM to 11PM”. (By 1950 that slogan had change to “…9AM to 11PM” because they started their day with movies at 9AM. The show consisted of 13 vaudeville acts, each act featuring from one to 4 performers, plus “The Three Teasers” Burlesque with a cast of 36. Add in the musicians, stage manager and stage hands and you have to wonder where they had room for all these people backstage (it was not a big theater). Dressing rooms were on the ground floor under the stage. They could have extended this area forward for more room, but there was a business on the ground floor: a brewery/bottling works originally, and restaurants later. (There was no business on the ground floor in the 1950s). The program does not mention movies, but they started showing films right from the start when they first became available in the late-1890s. The NY Clipper is among the show-business trade papers on line in the Media History Digital Library; (free access).

You must login before making a comment.

New Comment

Subscribe Want to be emailed when a new comment is posted about this theater?
Just login to your account and subscribe to this theater