Palace Theatre

247 N. Union Street,
Olean, NY 14760

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Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on January 4, 2017 at 8:20 pm

This story from the Olean Times Herald of October 10, 2015, concerns the Palace Theatre’s vertical sign which was saved from the demolition and has since been in storage.

The article says that the Palace opened on February 19, 1917.

mewings32 on January 13, 2014 at 3:16 pm

the seats may also be from the Olean Theatre found on the 400 block of North Union St. pictures and info on theater would be much appreciated

mewings32 on January 13, 2014 at 1:19 pm

I recently purchased theater seats that were said to be taken out of the palace theater before its demolition. I am trying to confirm their age and if they are in fact from the palace but its difficult to find any images of the inside of the building.

KatSimon on December 4, 2012 at 12:47 pm

Hi there – anyone who gets this. My grandfather and great uncle owned and ran the Palace for decades. I’m trying to get ahold of any artifacts / original photos / postcards etc. My cousins and I used to visit the theater nearly every day in the summer as kids and I’d love to have something to share with them from the past. If anyone has anything they’d be willing to share with me, please let me know. Post here and I’ll get an email about it. Many, many thanks.

Don Lewis
Don Lewis on February 4, 2012 at 5:05 pm

From 1951 a photo postcard image the Palace Theatre in Olean NY.

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on January 3, 2010 at 4:47 pm

God Bless STAGEHANDS. Mike Local 629 iatse.

WSL on January 3, 2010 at 4:41 pm

I was part of the group, The Olean Community Theatre, that staged the play in July of 1989 to which redwards referred. The musical was “Man of La Mancha,” and I played the lead role. It was marvelous to be a part of fixing the place up and watching the shine come back to the Palace through the efforts of many volunteers. There was even one volunteer who personally cleaned every seat.

One day when we were rehearsing, a former stage hand (from when the Palace was a vaudeville house) stopped by and told us stories about the various artists who had played the Palace. One interesting story was when Roy Rogers and Trigger were there and Trigger got cut in an accident that left a scar on Trigger.

The stage hand also told us a story which I used in my performances. Every night when I sang “The Impossible Dream” I stood on a trap door that he had pointed out to us which had been installed by Harry Houdini. It was my hope, while singing that song, that the Olean Community Theatre’s dream of making the Palace into a community performing arts center would come to fruition. Unfortunately, there were too many windmills to fight.

redwards on January 22, 2009 at 1:48 pm

This website has a few photos of the Palace and other Olean area theaters:

Someone has posted 3D computer rendered animation of the Palace building here: I would assume this is related to the ‘Little Chicago’ movie which has been filming in the area.

I grew up in Olean and my first memory of seeing a movie in a theater (Star Wars) was at the Palace. The place had definitely seen better days even back in the 70’s. As I recall it was kind of dim and dirty inside but you could tell that it was quite impressive in its day. When the film ended a curtain would close across the screen as the credits rolled. There was a balcony but it was normally closed off – I only remember it being opened once for a movie when a free showing of “Charlotte’s Web” played to a large crowd on a weekend afternoon.

At some point in the ‘80’s a local theater group convinced the owners to allow a play to be staged there. I believe that some level of restoration work was done by volunteers prior to the play. I remember sitting in the balcony for a performance and marveling at the restored chandelier. Hopefully somebody got some interior shots at that time – I never saw it in better condition. The last time I went was to see JFK and the place was back to being dimly lit, unclean and freezing cold.

I still cringe when I go home to visit and see the building that replaced it on Union Street. The Palace sign will always be lit in my mind’s eye.

DaRev on January 1, 2009 at 9:24 am

It needs to be known that the Bordonaro family wanted to donate the theater to the City of Olean. They were assured by then Mayor John Ash that the city would indeed take the building. The Bordonaros closed the theater and vacated the building. When the city council was deadlocked on the approval vote, Mayor Ash cast the deciding vote, voting against the measure. When the Bordonaros were approached by Benderson Developement to purchase a block of family owned properties which included the theater building, the Bordonaros accepted the sale offer. It was the failure of the city and the mayor which precipitated the sale and demolishing of the Palace Theater.

opus1280 on October 25, 2008 at 12:25 pm

I scanned in my photos for Patsy, if anyone else wants to see them, send me an email and ill forward them on. All exterior shots of the front and rear of the theatre.

Patsy on October 23, 2008 at 8:41 am

Yes, “locals”!

Patsy on October 22, 2008 at 8:01 pm

The one photo shows a vertical marquee with the words…PALACE and another one doesn’t seem to show the vertical marquee though hard to see as they are not “up close and personal” photos! Hopefully my email will bring about some better photos of the Palace!

Patsy on October 22, 2008 at 7:58 pm

Lost……Thanks so much! I think I found 2 photos on that site of the theatre, but have sent an email to find out if the site could post some close-up theatre photos along with interior photos!

Patsy on October 22, 2008 at 8:14 am

ken mc: The 1929 ad posted on October 23, 2006 doesn’t work and I would like to see it. Thanks.

Patsy on October 21, 2008 at 8:29 pm

Richard G: And did you once own theatres in western NYS? Silver Creek NY and Angola NY? If so, I tried to contact you about the Geitner Theatre…even stopped to get a tour by the present owner, but to no avail.

Patsy on October 21, 2008 at 8:27 pm

Richard G: Please email me at and put Palace Theatre/Olean NY in the subject line!

Patsy on October 21, 2008 at 8:24 pm

Lost: Thanks for posting the website that showed a mirror salvaged from the Palace Theatre! I just wonder if any local antique stores would have other items? I just may have to make some inquiry calls!

Patsy on October 21, 2008 at 8:21 pm

I am VERY interested in seeing photos of this theatre that once stood on Main Street in Olean NY! Recently I was in Olean and visited The Library Restaurant which used to be the Public Library. I spoke with the owner and she told me that the library, too, was destined to be demolished until her family stepped up and purchased it 25 years ago. So to this day most folks when they think of Olean they think of The Library Restaurant. While speaking with her I asked if she had grown up in Olean and she told me yes. I then asked her if the town had had a theatre and she told me the story of how the town tried to save it. Now thanks to a September 2006 post by “opus 1280” I now know the sad story! And to think…“Mayor Griffin didn’t even showed up for the meeting”. And last, but not least…who was this Benderson person??

roberttoplin on May 18, 2007 at 5:03 pm

The Palace Theatre which opened Feb.19,1917 was designed by Leon H. Lempert,Jr.

kencmcintyre on October 23, 2006 at 11:11 am

Here is a 1929 advertisement for the Palace:

opus1280 on September 2, 2006 at 5:45 pm

I just came across a bunch of emails I received and printed out as the entire Palace saga was unfolding way back in the 90s! Which prompted me to look it up here. The Palace in Olean (as well as several neighboring buildings) was demolished in Sept, 1998 by Benderson Development, and replaced with (as RichardG stated) an Eckards Drug store. Im not sure of its build date, but a 3/12 Moller theatre organ was installed at the Palace in 1916. I remember its proposed demolition being quite controversial, having first heard about it on the evening news in Buffalo, 70 or so miles north. So I ventured down to Olean 7/6/98 to attend a meeting on the subject in the city court room. I remember sitting there, after spending some time walking around the Palace and snapping some photos, wondering how some of those buffoons could be so short sighted. Mayor Griffin didn’t even show up for the meeting. There was one guy there, whom I had seen before at some theatre organ concerts in the Buffalo area, that stated that the theatre itself was in ruins and wasn’t salvageable. I wondered if he had ever seen the dilapidated Allendale in Buffalo which the Theatre Of Youth (TOY) was restoring at the time. Now THAT was a classic example of a theatre in ruins, and look at it now!! It ended with a 4-3 vote in favor of the Benderson project, I remember feeling like a deer caught in head lights watching this entire drama laid out before me, it was quite disturbing. I was told later that, challenging an article in the town charter, that the city was taken to court over the matter. But while that was still being deliberated, plans for the sale of the Palace from the Bordonaros to Benderson were finalized. I got an email on 9/13/98 stating that Benderson had rolled into town, under seal of darkness (supposedly at 3 or 4am), and just had at it, basically catching everyone off guard. I never went back to Olean, but from what I understand, it wasn’t just the Palace but pretty much most of that block of N. Union that was demolished. It was quite sad watching (and reading about) these residents grasping at whatever they could to keep out-of-towners and their own city government from destroying the downtown landscape. Does anyone know if any interior photos of this place exist? I wanted to see inside so bad that night in 98, but didnt feel like going to jail for breaking and entering! lol

richardg on December 4, 2005 at 2:14 pm

The Palace has been gone approximately six or seven years. Where the once majestic theatre complex stood now stands another drug store. Years ago, just outside of downtown a small multi screen (maybe a triplex)theatre opened and the Palace had to resort to second run films at reduced admissions. Just before the Palace closed a mega-plex was built not too far from the “triplex”. This forced both the Palace and the triplex to close their doors. Memory tells me there was a rather grand staircase which you’d imagine led to a balcony. It however, only led to washrooms and the projection area. I was offered the Palace rent free in exchange for paying the taxes on the theatre’s portion of the complex.