Rialto Theatre

121 Mathewson Street,
Providence, RI 02903

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lobeidat
lobeidat on November 3, 2012 at 2:29 am

Hey Guys, anyone can help me? i am doing my graduation thesis in Interior Architecture Program (adaptive reuse) and I have chosen this building to do my intervention on it, so anyone can give me its architectural drawings I will appreciate that.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on February 3, 2012 at 1:57 pm

An earlier comment mentioned William R. Walker & Sons as architects for the conversion of the church into the Scenic Theatre. The same firm designed an expansion and alterations for the theater in 1919, according to an item in one issue of The American Architect that year. The Google Books scan is missing the page with the issue date on it, but the page with the item is marked as Vol. CXV, No. 2250, which should have been published in February.

kenster
kenster on October 27, 2011 at 6:51 pm

…cont) 3

“Little Allie Bagley died in Saranac Lake a couple of years ago. Rae Pendletown, my dancing partner, is quite the mother now, at Winsted, Conn. with a daughter 14 and son 18. Ruth King married George Harrington and they reside in Centerdale, R.I. Frances Lind had a jewerly business in Riverside, R.I. with her brother-in-law, and you perhaps read of the robbery there last February when the safes were blown open at A.J. Dennison & Co. Lillian Leslie married our piano player Henry Sullivan and lives in Providence. Harriett Moran now has her own beauty parlor in Lowell, Mass. Georgia Carrier is married to Bert Slater, well known in Providence. And also, little Jimmy Valentine is a grown man living in Woonsocket. Our own Mike Monahan is now back stage at the Majestic working for Ed Fay. T.F. Thomas and Walter Morrison have recently left this world.”

“So to you who loved to go to the Scenic, I trust this reminiscence will bring back pleasant memories of twenty-five years ago.”

Signed: Bobby Jewett

Note: Bottom is written in pencil: “Russell Blackson of Fred Mack of Prov. is now one of the head directors of the RKO Studios in Hollywood.”

END

I got goosebumps even typing this to you, to be invited into truly a world of lost history & where you given a small anecdote from the lives of some of the performers there at the Scenic during that particular stint and then having a vivid account of what happened to so many performers after the split and how their lives all took on separate avenues and the like, is well, truly astonishing and nostalgic.

Kind Regards,

ken

kenster
kenster on October 27, 2011 at 6:39 pm

…cont) [2]

“Things started shaping up, however, but we sadly needed a curtain. Eddie Dowling played inaa sketch entitled (sic) "The Spy; he died at the finish and they put out all the lights for him to get up and run off, but the audience yelled with laughter, they could see him. The management found out if would have to get a regular theatre license in order to hang a curtain, which meant $500.00 a year more. So on a trip to New York, Mr. Homan visited Hippodrome and saw that famous curtain come up through the floor. In less than a week we had a miniature Hippodrome Curtain, of green velvet, at the Scenic.”

“The little company started selling ‘standing room only’ after the third week, each member was starting to become a favorite. The money made from the owners, built the Merrimack Square Theatre in Lowell, Mass. the first year.”

“Mr. Homan married Nance Shannon, one of the prima donnas, that is, one week you were a prima donna and the next you had to do blackface.”

“We changed programs weekly, with new costumes, props and the good old Mike would cover the furniture in different material, and every Monday we were spick and span.”

“I recall quite a laugh I had over Mrs. Martin Toohey going to the Providence Opera House one night to see a big musical show. After the show she came to the Scenic and when she saw me she said, [‘Bob they had one number in the show that was step for step for the one you put on two weeks ago.’] You see, I had taken a weeks vacation and gone to New York for ‘new things’. I witnessed that same show Mrs. Toohey saw, they took quite a few encores on the song hit, and I must confess, I memorized the dance routine – result was, the Scenic had it first!”

“I could relate quite a few things that occured in the Stock Co., but all in all, we were hard workers. Had at least three songs each to learn each week, besides studing (sic) the sketches and rehearsed every day except Tuesday.”

“When news spread around that we were about to finish at the Scenic, Mr. Homan was swamped with offers for the Stock Company. We eventually went to Haverhill, Mass. and the owner of the theatre, we played in there was Lewis Mayer – now Metro-Golden-Mayer. We stayed sixteen weeks, and had a glorious time, as we were up in so many programs, we just had to put them in order. We afterward played ten weeks in Salem, New Bedford and many New England towns. In due time the original members began leaving and replaced by others, until the little Homan Stock Company that first saw the light of day at the old Scenic disbanded.”

“Mr. Homan became manger of a theatre in Pittsfield, Mass., where he died four years ago. Eddie Dowling, we all know, hit the top in the theatrical, and might I say, political profession. Our own Eddie Healey is right here with us, settling down in his home town after seeing his name in lights as a vaudeville headliner. Also in Rhode Island remains Martin Toohey, who did alright, after a short tour with Walter LaFoy as a partner. Martin is now Manager of the Le Roy Theatre in Pawtucket. Jack Kammerer you’ll find in a night club in Boston. Edna Howland is married and lives in Providence. Betty Farrington lives in Summerville, Mass. and was remembered in a will of a relative which made her quite well off. Nance Shannon lives in Longmeadow, Mass. in a cute little cottage with her daughter Mary Homan.”

(cont….)

kenster
kenster on October 27, 2011 at 6:09 pm

Note: These original letters were found in a back of a large album with pictures from my Great Grandfather (Robert Jewett) with Bette Davis, and I believe was written for a newspaper; which either was never printed, written to the K.O.C. (in which he was heavily involved in Providence I believe, or never was seen by anyone until it fell, literally into my hands. Considering the mini documentary and book I am working on in regards to his time with Eddie and his friends in LA (best friends with the then owner or Manager (fit title where neeeded) of MGM, I believe this letter was written during his sixties, rather then in his last years in the now disgracefully closed ‘Motion Picture Actors Home’ in CA. This will no doubt for Gerald who asked me to type the letter here, so many accurate routine descriptions of the theatre from someone who performed there during some of there title runs. There are no copies of this letter (that I am aware of at least), and it is the original document in question. Please feel free to print it, reprint it or submit it with my full approval, or if a copy, digital or the like, is needs to be sent for approval of its contents it would be my pleasure to assist in any way; giving credit to him of course for the writing, and if you’d like, myself, for its authenticy as his grandson. I changed no spelling or grammatical errors if any exist, it’s exactly as it was typed out. Regards

From: Bobby Jewett

Title: The Passing of the Rialto-Scenic Theatre

Body:

“Coming to Providence for the first time in a year and a half and walking through the Matthewson Street I stopped and gazed at the ‘Old Scenic’ gone, and what memories of twenty-five years ago have flown with its passing.

“So many in Providence will remember the ‘Homan Stock Co.’ that packed them in at that little theatre for two long years; of how they had to stand in line nights almost up to Westminster Street in order to get a ticket.”

“Where are all those members of that merry little musical stock company. How often people ask me on my visits home "What’s become of Jimmie Valentine-Betty Farrington-Nance Shannon-Lillian Leslie-Alice Bagley-Georgia Carrier-Martin Toohey-Eddie Healey-Eddie Dowling-Jack Kammerer-Edna Howland-Rae Pendleton-Ullie Akerstrom-T.F. Thomas-Valaska Conrad-Ruth King-Walter Morrison-George Harrington-Frances Lind and many others. Fred Homan, our manager, Russell Mack and Fred Lovett, his assistant managers, also Mike Monahan, stage manager and all round stage decorator.”

“I was playing in Columbus, Ohio after previously playing The Scenic in vaudeville, when I received a wire from Mr. Homan asking if I cared to join a Musical Stock he was forming. Personally I could not visualize a number of people on that stage at one time. Besides, there was no front curtain to hide the stage from the audience while it was being set; neither was there a center entrance or exit, only left and right. However, the offer sounded good for steady work in my home town, and after finishing in Toronto I came on. Most of the cast was local talent recruited from the Bijou and Nickel Theatres, then on Westminster Street, most of them illustrated song singers.”

“We rehearsed a week, helped very much by Eddie Dowling’s idea of this type of ‘Tab’ entertainment, as he had just finished at the Bijou Theatre in Fall River, Mass. with Hugh Herbert, whom you now see in pictures. I put on all the dances and assemble numbers each week, and it wasn’t a task getting novelty numbers in those days, such as German-Irish-Swedish-Cow-Boy-and wonderful March songs for finales. I would hate to think of attempting it now a days, with almost nothing buy syncopation, every song would conflict.”

“Some of you will remember we always opened our show with a fifteen minute sketch followed by single, trio, double and ensemble numbers, then all on for the finale.”

“Every one furnished their own wardrobe. My salary was $40.00 weekly and Eddie Dowling came next at 35.00. The old timers we had, I mean T.F. Thomas and Ullie Ackerstrom, were well supplied with sketches cut down from plays. No one in the company was over twenty-five years of age. Each week we had to obtain a permit from the City Hall so little Jimmy Valentine could work, as he was only nine years of age, and what a beautiful voice he had.” (Me: Note WOW)

“We opened in 1910, the month I can’t recall, our opening week was rather dubious- I really think only the management was pleased. I recall very distinctly, on the opening night of the second week, when the slide went on the screen ‘Homan’s Musical Stock Co.’ just before ther start of the show, the audience groaned. You see, they thought we had left on Saturday night as the regular vaudeville bill did.”

(cont….)

kenster
kenster on October 27, 2011 at 5:02 pm

Gerald DeLuca et all,

I lost my sign in info on LABOUND, but you responded to me as Kenster, dont know how my name was changed or even if I did it (most weeks are a blur, as you can see its taken me a year and half to respond to you) But if you go back in the postings from LABOUND’s handle, which was me, I said I would post verbatum the Bobby (Robert) Jewett letter, in its entirety, word for word, as, we both agree, a historical accurate anecdote from his memoirs there during his time with his best friends Eddie Dowling and Pat O'Malley, amongst countless others in the Vaudeville error. I hope it helps in any way in your research or hobbies in regards to the referenced.

Letter is Below on separate posting.

Kind Regards

Ken

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on February 6, 2011 at 5:39 pm

The Scenic Temple first opened on Mathewson Street on December 31, 1906. The News-Democrat reported:
“The New Scenic Temple on Mathewson Street, formerly the Mathewson Street skating rink, opens today with motion pictures, illustrated songs and other attractive forms of entertainment. The temple will be open daily from noon until 10:30 P.M., and the programs will be changed on Thursday.”
OPENING DAY AD.
The building had originally been the Westminster Congregational Church, opened 1829.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on February 4, 2011 at 12:22 pm

The first three full-time downtown Providence movie theatres were these: Nickel, Scenic Temple, Bijou. There are others that did show films previously but they were sporadic showings, or in the case of the Lyric, short-lived. Movies were the main policy, though the Scenic Temple did include vaudeville acts. This ad from August 1, 1908 makes clear the growing trend: moving pictures are here to stay! They are not a mere innovation.
NICKEL, SCENIC TEMPLE, BIJOU

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on January 21, 2011 at 2:35 pm

Ad from 1917 when this was known as the Scenic Theatre.
CLICK HERE and note the 5-cent admission price.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on January 17, 2011 at 8:03 pm

Hmmmm. Possible indeed. There was a Scenic, dating back to the early silent era, at Oakland Beach in Warwick, RI, later known as the Midway, q.v. But it didn’t deign to call itself a temple, and it was most likely an independent house. The building still exists.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on January 17, 2011 at 6:53 pm

I was recently told that theaters named “Scenic Temple” in New England in the early-20th Century were affiliated with one another. I don’t know if that’s true. There was a Scenic Temple in Boston after 1907.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on January 15, 2011 at 10:34 am

Newspaper ad announcing change of policy at the Rialto, with admission prices.
February 3, 1927. Link.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on January 12, 2011 at 1:19 pm

In an unusual bit of programming in February 1921, Charlie Chaplin’s The Kid was booked simultaneously in five downtown Providence theatres: the Strand, the Emery, the Modern, Fays, and the Rialto. Occasionally some highly anticipated movies might play in two downtown theatres, but never five! It seems to have run only one week, in an era when that was pretty much the norm, with films running a single week downtown, then moving to second run theatres and outlying houses. Each of these theatres accompanied this feature with short subjects or live Vaudeville acts.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on June 24, 2010 at 11:33 pm

From The Reel Journal (Boxoffice) magazine, August 8, 1925:

Second Release for “Sea Hawk” Sept. 1

“The Sea Hawk,” which First National took out of service at the end of May, for three months, has been released again for first run showings, beginning the first of September, Tom Byerle, local manager, announced this week.

The first of the new first run showings has been contracted by Thomas Spry, branch manager in Boston, for the week of September 6th, at the Rialto Theatre, Providence, R.I.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on June 5, 2010 at 5:33 pm

Kenster,
Yes, I would be very interested in your posting the contents of that letter. That would be an important historical documentation of the place. Goodness knows there is precious little that survives, no significant period photos of the inside or out.

LABound
LABound on April 2, 2010 at 2:02 am

I found a ton of pictures in an old album of a bunch of players with the Rialto and a original type written letter 25 years after Jewett and Dowling performed there, titled ‘The passing of the Rialto-Scenic Theatre’ If anyone is interested in the prose in the letter it is around three pages long and it would be my pleasure to post it.

LABound
LABound on March 4, 2010 at 6:21 am

Hi my great grandfather was Bobby, or Robert Jewett. He & Eddie Dowling used to put on many a show at the Scenic Theater. I have hundreds of clippings from his shows on the road, in and around Prov, Boston and New Bedford, before his actual move West with his ‘Dancing Dolls’ and then across the ocean to perform in Musical Theater in Australia. From what my grandmother used to tell me, he was heavily involved in that theater, and Providence and all the KOC would go insane when Jewett came back to Providence, filling the theater at maximum capacity. Anyone with any photos of him or the like would be greatly appreciated, he died at the Motion Picture Home in Woodland Hills, CA.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on March 5, 2008 at 4:57 pm

Those are really nice pictures. I’ve only seen a couple of them before and never the former church interior. I’d love to see the interior as a theatre, either as the Rialto or as Scenic Temple, but alas I don’t think there are any. To create a hyperlink, you put [url =, then “quotes around the actual url http: etc.”, then closing bracket ], then words you want in blue, then [/url]. In case you need to do it in the future. Many people don’t bother anyway.

ming
ming on March 5, 2008 at 3:21 pm

Hi Gerald, i still dont know how to create hyperlink to a word so that it appears in blue like yours did.
So here’s the link itself:
View link

Let me know if you need further information about the building.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on March 1, 2008 at 10:18 am

Ming,
Post the pictures on a photo server. Photobucket (www.photobucket.com) will do. I use Flickr (www.flickr.com) because of its versatility in displaying photos and sets to other audiences. Then take the photo’s URL, paste it here, and voilà, it should link to the photo on your server. I can explain more if you contact me at italiangerry(at)gmail.com. My Flickr set for RI movie theatres is HERE. Would you email me the pictures to look at?

ming
ming on March 1, 2008 at 3:49 am

Hi Gerald, i’m back. I spent time researching during last semester of school, and made some interesting discoveries. I would like to post some pictures to share, but don’t know how. Can u tell me?

regards,
ming

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on November 19, 2007 at 11:40 am

Ming, as you have seen by now, my friend Douglas Brown confirmed (on the Carlton page) that William R. Walker & Sons also did the Carlton Theatre. I should have referred you to him in the first place since he has detailed historical knowledge about all of downtown Providence’s buildings. A year ago last June we walked together to all the sites of former theatres in that area and shared what we knew. I saw movies at the Carlton in the early 1950s, but never at the Rialto, which closed in the 1930s, before I was born. Be sure to post any additional findings of your own.

ming
ming on November 18, 2007 at 4:37 pm

Hi Gerald,

I did manage to borrow that amazing book from the Providence Public Library. It didnt mention the architects, which is a pity.

But thanks anyway, for all the interesting info you’ve contributed to this website. It was such a wondrous discovery for me on Rialto.

I really enjoyed Providence history and the process of ‘diggin’ them up!

All the best to your future research,
ming

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on November 18, 2007 at 3:40 pm

Ming, I don’t know. But Roger Brett’s book Temples of Illusion may contain that information. I don’t remember.