State Theatre

63 N. Main Street,
Washington, PA 15301

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Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on October 20, 2017 at 1:24 pm

This item from the November 22, 1924, issue of Moving Picture World reveals that there was an house in Washington called the State Theatre nearly a decade before 1933:

“Arthur Gottesman, who purchased the old Capitol at Washington, reopened the house on November 10 and has renamed it the State. This house also has been considerably improved and is one of the finest picture palaces in the local territory.”
An advertisement for Washington’s two newspapers, the morning Observer and the evening reporter ran in the January 28, 1922, issue of Editor & Publisher, and included a paragraph boasting of new construction projects then underway in Washington, including “…the Capitol Theatre, one of the largest in western Pennsylvania outside of Pittsburgh, costing a quarter of a million dollars….” So the Capitol must have been a large house, and not really so old when Gottesman took over in 1924.

I’m not sure what to make of this information. Was this the same State Theatre, or a different one. If different, did it later operate under a different name? If the same, why did it have to be rebuilt in 1933? Was there a fire or other disaster, or was it just extensively remodeled?

This is complicated by a comment on this page by aprivee on November 20, 2008, which includes the line “[t]here seem to be two different theaters built by Eberson at different times under the name State Theater in Washington, PA.” Did Eberson design the Capitol, or perhaps merely design the remodeling of the Capitol into the State for Arthur Gottesman in 1924? There is clearly a gap in our knowledge of Washington’s theater history.

sgtjim on September 6, 2016 at 7:43 pm

The State theatre was never known as the Penn Theatre. The Wasington Theater across the street from the State Theater became known as the Penn Theater in the late 60’s or early 70’s. It is a parking lot today. I worked as an usher at the State and Washington Theaters in the 1956-1958 period . Jim Aurouze Retired MPDC sergeant.

DavidZornig on August 23, 2016 at 5:13 pm

Circa 1956 photo added courtesy of the AmeriCar The Beautiful Facebook page. Not the best quality, but the building and marquee is visible on the left.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on January 7, 2014 at 12:57 pm

The September 27, 1932, issue of The Film Daily said that the projected opening date of the John Eberson-designed theater being built for Warner Bros. at Washington, Pennsylvania, was January 15.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on June 8, 2013 at 12:19 pm

I just noticed that, in my second comment of June 7, I wrote Chestnut Street when I meant to write Main Street.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on June 8, 2013 at 12:03 pm

RSM3853’s list of movies shown at the State and Penn Theatres indicates that the State closed at the end of May, 1960, and the Penn opened in March, 1961. The operators must have decided to close the larger State Theatre and renovate and rename the smaller Washington Theatre to be their first-run house. With the decline in theater attendance that took place in the 1950s and 1960s, that would have made economic sense.

sgtjim on June 8, 2013 at 11:18 am

Here is a link to an old postcard that shows both the State and Washington Theaters on Main St in Washington, Pa. I worked at both of these theaters in the mid 50’s as they were operated by the same management team of Bill Cardone and Gina who was a tall striking brunette. The Washington Theater was renamed the Penn before it closed in 1973. I hung the metal alphabet on both marquees. I would draw a scale and measure out how much space each letter would tale on the marquee. The letters hung from metal lines.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on June 7, 2013 at 9:56 pm

Chuck, if the Penn was torn down and replaced by a parking lot in 1973 then it must have been the Washington that was renamed the Penn, not the State. The only parking lot on this block of Chestnut Street is the one where the Washington Theatre used to be, right across the street from the State. The State’s entrance building, at least, is still standing.

A paragraph about the Washington Theatre on this web page says that it did become the Penn Theatre, and this earlier comment by sgtjim says that he thought the Washington and the Penn were the same house, too.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on June 7, 2013 at 4:13 pm

Comments on this theater from before August 2, 2007, seem to have gone missing. I think that this 1949 photo must have been the one Chuck linked to.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on October 8, 2011 at 3:33 am

The building that the State’s entrance was in, at least, was still standing when Google’s street view truck went by. At that time, 63 N. Main Street was occupied by a comic book store called The Gaming Dungeon, and that store is still listed on multiple web sites, and has a Facebook page active as recently as last April. It was also the location of a CCG event scheduled for September 24 this year.

From Google’s satellite view, the building looks a bit small to have held an auditorium seating over 1,300. There’s a big parking lot behind it that could have been the site of a big auditorium, but it was a parking lot as long ago as 1969, according to an aerial view at Historic Aerials, so if the theater was still operating in the 1970s, as sgtjim says above, then it must have been in the building that shows up in the Google street and satellite views.

The Washington Theatre, which was across Main Street from the State, has definitely been demolished, though. Maybe that’s the theater spectrum was thinking of.

sgtjim on February 18, 2010 at 9:56 am

Here is the link to the 1960 photo of the State Theater lobby and staff in Washington, Pa.


sgtjim on February 18, 2010 at 9:32 am

My apologies, You posted the link above for the 1949 photo of the State Theater.There is a Flicker link for the State theater which shows an interior shot of the lobby with the staff taken about 1960.

sgtjim on February 18, 2010 at 9:11 am

I retired 20 years ago. When I joined the force in 1963 there were a number of beautiful theaters in DC. However in those days my bride and child usually attended the drivein theaters in Waldorf, Indianhead highway, Branch Ave and Hyattsville.

sgtjim on February 16, 2010 at 9:14 pm

I worked at the State Theatre in Washington, Pa from 1956-1958, There were 4 theatres in Washington, Pa during this period. The State was the largest and had a balcony. I remember installing the marquee letters for the Ten Commandments about 1956. Directly across the street was the Washington Theatre which was managed by the same team that managed the State. A male, I remember as Mr. Cardone and a lovely tall brunette by the name of Gina. I remember seeing Tex Ritter in person at the Washington in the early 50’s. The Washington usually ran 2nd rate movies while the State had 1st run movies and was known for their Saturday morning Cartoon Shows. The 3rd theatre in town was the Basle at the corner of Main & Chestnut which became the Midtown in the 80’s. The theatre was named for Bill Basle who owned the theatre and hired my mother Gladys Aurouze as a cashier in the early 50’s. The 4th theatre was the Court on
Chestnut St which was the mainstay for the Saturday westerns double feature. The State was renamed the Penn in the mid 70’s. I graduated in 1958, joined the Air Force and in 1963 started a career with the D.C. Police Dept.

aprivee on November 20, 2008 at 8:43 am

There is unfortunately no website where the photographs can be viewed. I am the project archivist at the Wolfsonian working on the John and Drew Eberson archives and am currently working on cataloging these images. There seem to be two different theaters built by Eberson at different times under the name State Theater in Washington, PA. If anyone knows the history of these buildings I would appreciate the information. I will upload an image when I get the time.

JohnMessick on August 2, 2007 at 12:32 pm

Is there a website that we might be able to see those 24 photos?