Pastime Theatre

1911 Westminster Street,
Providence, RI 02909

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Pastime Theatre

Built in the first decade of the 20th Century, this was one of the growing crop of movie houses, often store-front ones, that were being started in various Providence neighborhoods. This one was located in Olneyville Square.

Contributed by Gerald A. DeLuca

Recent comments (view all 10 comments)

Roger Katz
Roger Katz on June 27, 2005 at 3:02 pm

Gerald, have you checked to confirm that all these old storefront moviehouses you post are actually demolished? I have found here, in Connecticut, that the buildings that housed storefront theatres sometimes remain.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on June 28, 2005 at 2:09 am

Roger, I always drive to the location to check. A hardware store called Hardware in the Square is there now at 1911. From the rear you can see that it is a brick building which may have existed at the time of the theatre, or may have been built after. I couldn’t tell. A couple of doors to the right, closer to Broadway, there used to be a Grand Central Market when I gew up, now reduced from its large size (only the front remains) and called the Iglesia Cristiana. When I used to visit the market decades ago, I always thought that at some time it had been a theatre, because of the height of the main large part of the market, an entrance area that suggested a former lobby (now the Iglesia) and what looked like a scenery tower to the rear.

Roger Brett, in his Temples of Illusion, referred to the Edisonia and the Pastime as separate theatres. He wrote, “While impromptu theaters had been popping up like mushrooms after a rain in downtown Providence, the same thing had been going on in that almost autonomous region known as Olneyville Square. Olneyville had the Dimerina in 1907, the Edisonia Theater in 1908 and 1909, the Pastime Theater from 1909 to 1915…”

He says nothing detailed about them, but since the city directories give both the Pastime and Edisonia the same address, 1911 Westminster Street, I am assuming they were the same theatre. “Edisonia” is clearly a place that shows movies, but “Pastime” is an easier name for people to remember and suggests other entertainments as well as movies. Perhaps the name was changed in 1909. This is pure conjecture, but it seems plausible. Further “excavation” may prove otherwise.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on June 30, 2005 at 10:46 am

The 1908 Providence City Directory lists the Edisonia, 1911 Westminster Street, with John B. Nash as proprietor. The 1909 directory lists the Pastime, same address, with John B. Nash still proprietor. This had to have been the same theatre with a name change. In 1910 Everett Brophy was the Pastime manager.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on July 15, 2005 at 3:00 pm

In 1901 singer/actor Nelson Eddy was born in this neighborhood of Olneyville.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on September 6, 2005 at 8:43 am

It is evident now, based on city directories of the time, the the theatre had another name as well. From about 1915-1916, it was called the Gem Theatre.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on September 6, 2005 at 9:06 am

The Gem Theatre, mentioned in Roger Brett’s volume about Providence movie theatres, Temples of Illlusion, as a separate theatre from this one, turns out to be the same one with a different name. Newspaper ads show it calling itself “The little house with the big features.” They boasted that they were the only theatre in Providence that changed its entire program every day. They must have been having stiff competition with the new and larger Royal Theatre, built in 1914 in Olneyville Square. Here is a newspaper ad for the Gem Theatre from October 17, 1915.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on September 6, 2005 at 9:10 am

Kaufman and Braunig were named as owners in the 1916 city directory. The Gem Theatre no longer appears in the 1917 city directory or in later ones.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on September 7, 2005 at 3:17 am

Other Olneyville Square theatres were the Royal, the Dimerina, and the Olympia.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on January 2, 2011 at 5:45 am

From The Evening News, Providence, December 4, 1913:

“From last spring the folks in this vicinity thought that by this time Olneyville could boast of three theatres, but the indications are at the present time they will have to struggle along with the little Pastime theatre. The one most looked for was to be erected at the corner of Broadway and Valley Street* by Messrs. Smith & Nathanson of the Empire Theatre, and it was announced that it would be opened the first of this month, but so far no move has been made to build. It was also hinted that still another would be opened on the Waterman estate at the junction of Hartford Avenue and Plainfield Street**, but so far there are no signs of building.”

*Conn’s Olympia on Westminster at Olneyville Square would not arrive until 1926.
**The Royal would be built at that intersection about a year later in 1914.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on January 2, 2011 at 5:52 am

Small ad in The Evening News, January 11, 1912:

Olneyville Square
Moving Pictures, Illustrated Songs.
Pictures changed daily.[/b]

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