State Theatre

Main Street and Morgan Street,
Hartford, CT 06120

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AndrewBarrett
AndrewBarrett on June 20, 2014 at 4:43 pm

According to David Junchen’s “Encyclopedia of the American Theatre Pipe Organ” pg. 144, the State Theatre in Hartford, Connecticut originally had a Geneva theatre pipe organ, size not known or not given in the book, installed in 1926. The serial # of the organ’s blower was 19551. Does anybody know what happened to this organ and where it is today? Thanks!

hmorse
hmorse on August 12, 2013 at 1:14 pm

Does anyone remember seeing Gene Krupa at the theater? I think I was about 10 when he played there at the intermission between two movies and he looked pretty stung out – I think on heroin.

LugosiResearch
LugosiResearch on December 29, 2012 at 6:20 pm

On Saturday 10 February 1951, Bela “Dracula” Lugosi presented his in person Horror and Magic Stage show at the State. Currently I am conducting research on all things Lugosi; if anyone out there actually saw this show and/or has memorabilia (poster, handbill, photos) related to this show, please contact Bill at I already have copies of the newspaper ads related to this show. Thanks in advance for any assistance!

stel_oc
stel_oc on September 26, 2011 at 8:56 am

Just wondering by chance if any of you remember John Wynn,He worked at the State back in the 1930’s, 40’s. He was my Grandfather. He use to bring my Mom and her brother there. My Mother remembers the State Well. She will turn 80 next June and would love to get more infor for her. please contact me at Thank-you

rvarrick
rvarrick on April 20, 2011 at 3:59 pm

DSchneebeeli,I worked at the State Theater from 1957-1960 and helped out your dad (Bill)backstage and also in the office with Ted Harris.
I still have his card from The Valley Kennels.He also worked at the Strand Theater in Hartford.Hope you read this and anyone else who worked at the State,please contact me at
Thank you.Robert Varrick

BillG
BillG on October 24, 2010 at 6:00 am

Hi. If anyone has any photos, newspaper ads, or other memorabilia from the 1950’s rock ‘n’ roll era, I’d really appreciate hearing fro you. Write to me at Thanks.

DSchneebeli
DSchneebeli on July 7, 2010 at 9:49 am

Wow ! The State Theater.I can’t hark back to my childhood without talking about the State, it is interwoven with my fondest of memories from my earliest recallections to the day the music died in 1960. My Father was backstage Manager and Maintainence Manager for the State from early 40’s to it’s demise in may ,1960. I spent every possible moment at the state, either backstate on the weekends or in the theater itself during the week I would help my father carry tins of film to the projection room, whick by the way was located high above the massive main floor via a catwalk in the domed ceiling.
I was always scaredd to death of that treck, but I hid my fears pretty well , as I did not want to let my Dad know. Ted and Sam Harris ran the State, myself,my brother, and 2 sisters, called them Uncle, they both could not have been more wonderful to us. (I was the youngest born in ‘47 my brother '45 and sisters were'44 and '43)
I recall on one occation My brother slammed my pinky in our backdoor and when he opened it the tip was just hanging by a thread, so my Dad ran my over to the State and Uncle Sam’s office where Her quickly got a needle and thread and sewed it back on. By the way 57 years later it still looks great. I was about 6 then. Another memory comes to mind, while Pat Boone was slotted for a weekend, He wanted to see Elvis perform on the ed Sullivan Show (in 1956) tv’s were not plentiful back then, so my father brought him to our apartment, for a viewing on our round screen Philco TV, Pat stayed for the entire performace had a few cookies and a cold drink and left with my Father to perform next door. (My sisters both thought Pat was DREAMY lol)I can close my eyes and see the backstage area, mostly painted in battleship gray(some of which was painted by yours truely) the 8 or so dressing rooms, one of which My father used as a darkroom to develope his many pics, He was an amatuer photographer also (Bill’s photo service) and That room was also used for many of the guys to just Jam. I also have great memories of those sessions. Ahhh yes the State Theater my playground growing-up. If you listen closely you can hear my Dad yelling out “5 minutes, 5 minutes till showtime…” As an aside the coffe that all the stars raved about that my father made for them was “Chuck full Of Nuts” brand LOL

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on May 14, 2009 at 1:49 pm

The seating capacity needs to be corrected. Records kept by Theatre Historical Society of America give 3,880 seats, which made the State the 21st largest movie/vaudeville theatre in the USA. #20 was the St. Louis (current Powell Hall) in that Missouri city, with 3,881. #22 was the Chicago Theatre in that Illinois city, with 3,869 seats.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on May 10, 2009 at 8:51 am

Betty Grable’s opening in Hartford was overshadowed that same day by Germany’s invasion of Poland, which is usually regarded as the start of World War II. By the time that the USA finally entered the war in December, 1941, Grable was on the verge of becoming Boxoffice Queen of that era.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on May 10, 2009 at 8:31 am

Betty Grable’s movie career was still in low gear when she played a week’s stage engagement at the State Theatre starting September 1, 1939. Due to “live” talent costs, the State had to scrimp on film rentals, in this case with a Monogram “B” starring Frankie Darro entitled “Irish Luck”:
View link

sjmonday
sjmonday on July 1, 2008 at 9:54 pm

Mary Rohan and Bill Foley were teenagers in the late 1930’s who often were called to the stage at the State Theater to do the “jitterbug”. Does anyone have any memories of these events to share?

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on July 23, 2007 at 9:58 am

A sad photo of the State Theatre in the process of demolition can be seen in the “Images of America” volume Hartford, Volume II on page 62.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on July 23, 2007 at 9:30 am

Two period photos (1940s?) of the State Theatre can be seen in the “Images of America” volume Hartford, Volume I on page 43. One of the pictures shows the vertical marquee. Another has a large mob of patrons circling the entrance area. Perhaps I should scan and post.

metoo
metoo on April 21, 2006 at 6:00 pm

My father had been an usher at the State Theater in Hartford during the 30s.
He often spoke about it. He said that he saw all the big stars there. I remember him speaking of Bela Lougosi (who did the Dracula character for the ushers).
Before the State was torn down, we went there on a Sunday. No one was around. It was sunny out. My father took his 35mm camera and took lots of color slides of the whole area.
The person who wrote about the I-84 ramps is right in a sense. Today, you have the insane ramps where I-84 meets I-91 where the State Theater was (you used to have to drive off the highway and take a few streets behind G. Fox, in front of WTIC AKA Constitution Plaza to get to ther other highway).
The Hartford Civic Center ripped the center out of Hartford. All the shops and apartments were torn down. What a mistake! One winter morning the roof fell in! Hartford has office buildings. There is no reason to go there.

anexwaterburian
anexwaterburian on August 18, 2005 at 8:16 am

Joe Mulhall, now known as Ken Griffin, was a teen-aged disk jockey on WWCO, WATR, and WBRY in Waterbury in the 1950s. He recalled the days of live performances at the State Theater in the early 1950s in his 2002 autobiography “A Great Face For Radio”:

“Hartford’s State Theater was the largest venue in the world to me, with over 3000 seats. I would beg and plead with my poor parents to drive every Sunday from Waterbury to Hartford for their Sunday super-show. They had real stars every week and we would see every one, and wait at the stage door with autograph book and pen in hand. I filled up two books with autographs of stars like Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis, Bob Hope, and Carol Burnett.”

AlLarkin
AlLarkin on June 7, 2005 at 1:45 pm

Remember seeing Fats Domino at the State. We were seated back in the second half of the auditorium. I recall that I had a better view of Mr. Domino on a 17" TV while watching him on the Ed Sullivan Show. He did rock (and Roll) the house,though. The State’s marquee(s) impressed me. They had several smaller ones instead of the bigger ones other theaters had at the time. This was definitely a unique theater. Binoculars definitely needed.

Dixieland
Dixieland on April 25, 2005 at 9:49 am

I used to work as an usher at the State Theater in Hartford in 1956 and 1957 when Ted Harris was the Theater Manager. He booked all the Alan Freed Rock and Roll events. I saw Micky and Silvia, Paul Anka, Sam Cooke, Chuck Berry, Danny and the Juniors, Little Richard, too many tyo remember them all. It was outstanding. Ahhh youth.

shinestar
shinestar on April 9, 2005 at 7:24 pm

I was born and raised a Jew in the North End of Hartford, CT. I was a teen during the 50s and vividly recall the beginning of rock and roll. The State Theater played a huge roll in my teens. My friends and I were allowed to attend matinees where we always sat in the front row, which meant cowboys, Indians, and horses falling in our laps during the movie. The movie part of the program included a newsreel and 1 or 2 cartoons. But they were the opening act for the piece de resistance: the stage show. We saw every major star of the time performing the original songs such as Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, Etta James, The Crystals, The Platters, and Mickey and Sylvia. I was very impressed with the clothes they all wore and the dance steps. I can still see Sylvia in her sparkling silver formal with matching strappy sandals, and I can still do her little dance from “Love is Strange”. When Pat Boone came to town, we didn’t go because, even then, we understood his covers took money from people like Little Richard. I think the only star who didn’t come to town was Elvis. We weren’t big enough for him but that was okay with us.

The only reason the theater was demolished was to make room for I-84. Hartford High and the block surrounding it was also demolished for that reason.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on March 22, 2004 at 10:02 am

With Charles Sandblom as architect, the State was one of the most unusual “big” theatres ever built. Almost all of its nearly 4,000 seats were on the auditorium’s single floor, which had a 300-seat balcony protruding from the rear wall. The pitched floor took advantage of a natural dip in the underlying land. The seats were placed in a fan-like configuration, with five sections and six aisles. Each section also had cross aisles for quick access to the fire exits. The auditorium’s Italian Renaissance decor included a central dome that was 62 feet in diameter and cove-lighted with 555 bulbs for changing color effects. An additional 162 clear light bulbs decorated the dome’s huge crystal chandelier, which weighed about 1,500 pounds. The slightly arched stage opening measured 68 feet wide and 35 feet deep. Because the State was built and operated by an independent circuit, it had to compete with other Hartford theatres with connections to Hollywood studios, so its stage shows usually took first place to the screen fare. The State first opened on December 24, 1926, with nine acts of vaudeville and the second-grade Fox feature, “Summer Bachelors.” A resident 25-piece orchestra played for both the stage shows and the then silent movies. Three complete shows were given daily, with programs changing every five days. Within six months, the State went bust, causing the owners to lease the theatre to a Warner Bros. subsidiary that switched the policy to double features at the bargain prices of 10 cents for matinees and 20 cents in the evenings. With the onset of the Depression, the State opened and closed frequently. In April, 1936, much of the stage and auditorium were heavily damaged during a flood of the Connecticut River. Warner Bros. used it as an excuse to cancel their lease. The owners somehow raised funds to repair the damage and re-opened the State in October, resuming the original vaudeville-movie policy on Thursdays-Sundays, and showing double features the rest of the week. As the Depression began to recede, attendance improved, and the State took advantage of the rising popularity of pop music and big bands. Due to the State’s large seating capacity and location in the capital of Connecticut, all the big stars wanted to perform there. Harry James, Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, Jimmy Dorsey, Vaughan Monroe, Tony Pastor, Duke Ellington, Artie Shaw, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, the Ink Spots, the Mills Brothers, and Peggy Lee were among the headliners, many more than once. By the mid-1950s, the stars tended to be more from rock-and-roll and rhythm & blues. In May, 1960, competition from television and the decline of downtown Hartford forced the State to close. Its last stage show was topped by Connie Francis. A few months later, the property was taken over for the Windsor Street Re-Development project. The State was finally demolished in 1962. I am indebted to my friend, Barry Goodkin, an authority on Connecticut theatres, for much of this information.

Roger Katz
Roger Katz on February 9, 2004 at 5:28 pm

The State was known as the premier performance and concert venue in Hartford. It was only used as a movie theatre as a secondary attraction to its live shows.

richardg
richardg on February 9, 2004 at 4:57 pm

Although I never saw the State, I knew of its existance. A friend of mine performed there in the 1950’s. I was in Hartford around 1980, but the theatre was already gone. I can vividly remember the picture that my friend, Charlie Gracie, had of the State theatre with his name on the marquee. I’ll bet he still has the picture and I’ll submit it if this feature ever gets back on line.

William
William on November 19, 2003 at 6:03 pm

The State Theatre was located at 70 Village Street and in listing from the 50’s it seated 3064 people.