Durrell Hall

820 Massachusetts Avenue,
Cambridge, MA 02139

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rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on March 26, 2011 at 3:19 pm

Durrell Hall in Cambridge is on a long list of theaters and halls receiving licenses in Massachusetts for the year ending Oct. 31, 1914. Carroll Chase was the Mgr. and the condition was Good. The link to the list was posted by Ed Findlay on the page for the Boulevard Theatre in Revere.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on February 16, 2011 at 1:22 pm

In the entertainment pages of today’s Boston Herald there is an ad for a play “Glass House” at this theater Feb.18-26. The theater name is listed as “Durrell Theatre (YMCA Cambridge) 820 Massachusetts Avenue”. So the Durrell name is still being used.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on October 8, 2010 at 1:48 pm

A current college publication mentions the “hoots” (folk music concerts) presented at this theater by the Mama Bird Recording Co., but they give the seating capacity as “220” seats. It’s a fairly busy venue.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on March 7, 2009 at 1:17 pm

In a short clip recently posted on Youtube by the Univ. of Arizona, one Frank Cullen, who grew up in Cambridge, says that there was a movie theater called the Durrell which was upstairs in the Cambridge YMCA which he frequently patronized at a cost of 6 cents per ticket. He learned that many of the film performers had backgrounds in Vaudeville. This started a life-long interest in the Vaudeville era and the amassing of a huge collection which he has now donated to the Univ. of Arizona.

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on March 8, 2006 at 4:40 pm

I’ll have to give Ron Newman most of the credit for this one, Ron. He made the connection between the YMCA theater and your Durrell Hall entry. I just verified what he had already figured out. It was good team work though and it all worked out for the best.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on March 8, 2006 at 4:19 pm

The corrections at the top of the page look great. Thank you, Ron Newman and Lost Memory. When I noticed this antique cinema in the 1941 MGM Reports I had no idea it was still around.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on March 7, 2006 at 1:13 pm

I’ve sent in a Correction; hopefully one of the site owners will get to it shortly.

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on March 7, 2006 at 11:36 am

This is from another Boston Phoenix article:

“Adding yet another time dimension to Grace will be the rather funky venue, the YMCA’s newly restored Durrell Hall (1897), which I’m happy to say still has a whiff of the original 19th-century lecture-circuit "athenæum” clinging to it. (Molly Ivins spoke there recently.) Eventually, athenæums and lectures-as-entertainment disappeared, and it was converted into “The Durrell,” a 600-seat neighborhood movie theater remembered by only a very few locals well on in years. Then it disappeared. Now it’s back".

All you need to do is change the address above to 820 Massachusetts Ave. This theater was a good find.

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on March 7, 2006 at 10:54 am

Ron & Ron…In this 2004 article, it claims that “The recently renovated, historic Cambridge Family YMCA Theater (formerly the Durrell Hall Theater), has been reenvisioned by YMCA officials hoping to develop the Cambridge Y into a theatrical and cultural mecca in the mold of New York City’s 92nd Street Y. SAVIOR is an ideal show to help this lesser-known gem of a venue continue to grow”.

The theater listed here (Main St) is most likely the theater/YMCA that is listed at 820 Mass Ave. It probably had 600 seats before the renovation of the YMCA.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on March 7, 2006 at 10:48 am

Ron Newman- the drawing in your report appears to be a somewhat modernized version of the same building. There was a ornate and rather shallow canopy over the doors (just under the vertical YMCA sign in your drawing). A little of the detail just above and around the doors has been removed in the drawing. Compare your drawing with the 1910 photo posted by Lost Memory. It’s almost certainly the same building.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on March 7, 2006 at 10:43 am

Lost Memory- the 1910 photo in the article you posted is almost surely the same building which is photographed head-on and close-up in the MGM Report.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on March 7, 2006 at 10:42 am

The article says that one part of the 2002 restoration was to “tear out the balcony projection booth”. So it probably won’t ever show movies again.

Here is another photo of the YMCA building. Does it look similar to the 1941 photo in the MGM report?

The “Main Street” address now just sounds wrong. Maybe it was correct in 1897, but certainly not in 1941. But thanks for bringing this place to our attention; I had no idea that it had once shown movies.

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on March 7, 2006 at 10:27 am

Here is an article about the theater and YMCA and also a small 1910 photo of the YMCA on Mass Ave.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on March 7, 2006 at 10:17 am

The 1927 Film Daily Yearbook lists Durrell Hall as having 600 seats and operating 6 days per week. The MGM Theatre Photograph and Report form has a photo taken in April 1941. The entrance is in an imposing building. There is an ornate, shallow canopy over 3 sets of double doors, with half-round poster boards on either side, similar to those at the Colonial Theatre in Boston. The address is Main Street, with no number. The Report states that it is not showing MGM product, that it was built in 1900, that it is in Fair condition, has 600 seats, and recives patronage from a YMCA. The competiting theatres are the Central Square and the Olympia.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on March 7, 2006 at 8:04 am

This 1916 map clearly shows the YMCA, but not the theatre. The YMCA is on the south side of Massachusetts Avenue, opposite Bigelow Street. I don’t know when Main Street was renamed to Mass. Ave., but it was before 1916. Probably it happened when the ‘Harvard Bridge’ was built across the Charles River.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on March 7, 2006 at 7:45 am

There is a Durrell Hall theatre at the Cambridge YMCA, 820 Massachusetts Avenue in Central Square. It opened in 1897 and was restored in 2002, renamed the Cambridge Family YMCA Theatre.

Long ago, this part of Massachusetts Avenue was called Main Street.

If this is the same theatre, then the status should be “Open” and the function should be “Live Theatre”. Seating has been reduced to 280.