Washington Theatre

720 Washington Street,
Boston, MA 02116

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The Washington Theatre was a small cinema in downtown Boston located at the southeast corner of Washington and Kneeland streets. Its left sidewall was across from the right sidewall of the Stuart Theatre. It opened in October of 1911 but did not survive the Depression and was demolished by 1940. It is unknown if it was of new construction, or was an adaptation of an existing structure.

Contributed by Ron Salters

Recent comments (view all 17 comments)

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on January 8, 2006 at 9:06 am

A 1969 photo of demolition in this neighborhood. Photo is described here. You’re looking north on Washington Street towards Kneeland. In the distance is the vertical sign for the Pilgrim (former Olympia) theatre.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on February 25, 2006 at 3:09 am

The Washington Theatre is labelled as such on this 1928 map. It is at the right edge of the map, on the bottom (east) side of Washington Street, at the corner of Kneeland.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on July 5, 2006 at 7:15 am

There is a map “Boston Theatre District” published by the Boston Preservation Alliance in 1993. The map shows location of theatres and former theatres downtown from West St. south to Hollis St.. It lists alternate names for some of the theatres. For the Washington Theatre there is the curious annotation that it was also known as the “Lyric Theatre”. For awhile in the early 1930s, under Shubert control, the old Keith’s Theatre was known as the Lyric (before the name was changed to Normandie. ) This was the only use of the name “Lyric” that I know of downtown.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on June 16, 2008 at 11:03 am

The Washington’s ad in the Boston Globe during Christmas week of 1921 has the address, 720 Washington St., and then what looks like “Opp. Elio” (Opposite Elio ?? Don’t know what that means.) It says Continuous from 3 PM to 10 PM, there were 2 feature films playing Mon-Wed, and another pair Thurs-Sat. The house was apparently closed on Sundays.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on June 16, 2008 at 11:27 am

Opposite Eliot, maybe? Streets in this area have been moved around a lot in the last few decades, but I think there used to be an Eliot Street.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on June 17, 2008 at 10:30 am

I think you’re correct. Part of Stuart St. was called Eliot St. many years ago; in fact, I seem to recall that the name of the parking garage located a few doors down from the Plymouth/Gary Theatre entrance was the Eliot Street Garage. The Washington Theatre was on Washington St. at the corner of Kneeland St., and would have been opposite the east end of Eliot St.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on October 23, 2009 at 11:17 am

The chronological list in the back of Don King’s Boston theaters history book says that the Washington Theatre opened on Oct. 2, 1911 at 720 Washington St. It was demolished sometime in the 1930s.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on October 25, 2009 at 11:20 am

Charles Grandgent, in his 1932 essay, “The Stage in Boston in the Last Fifty Years”, says that the Washington Theatre was “still running” in 1932.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on February 12, 2011 at 10:48 am

In a 1918 Boston street directory, the Washington Th. is listed at 720 Washington St., on the east side of the street. The first business on that side of the street south of the intersection with Kneeland St. was a United Cigar store at 704 Washington. These United Cigar stores were usually small, hole-in-the-wall operations. So the theater entrance was a little way south of the intersection.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on April 11, 2011 at 11:47 am

The theaters time-line in the back of Don King’s Boston theaters history book lists a “Lyric Theatre” from March 1907 at 734 Washington Street. This would have been a very short distance to the south of the Washington Theatre. But the Lyric at this address is absent from the 1918 and 1921 Boston street directories, so it must have been a short-lived nickleodeon.

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