Scenic Temple

20 Berkeley Street,
Boston, MA 02116

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rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on June 1, 2011 at 10:29 am

Further to the list of Scenic Temples in eastern New England mentioned in previous posts: there was a Scenic Temple in Portsmouth NH as of 1916 and prior years. It showed both movies and vaudeville and was the former Pierce Hall. It’s not listed in CT.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on May 8, 2011 at 2:06 pm

The Scenic Temple was definitely in operation by 1908, as contemporary sources indicate that it was used as a dispensary distributing station during the Chelsea fire, which began on April 12 that year (see The Burning of Chelsea, published in 1908.)

Here is a link to the Scenic Temple listing in the 1908-1909 Cahn Guide. It notes that Chelsea still had no regular theaters, but there were two other movie houses in town; the Star and the Theatorium.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on May 8, 2011 at 12:08 pm

Ed- You’re our man in Chelsea, so you can add it. I went to Google Books and could not find Julius Cahn’s Theatrical Guide for 1908 which Joe Vogel references above. But I found the 1906 edition and it says “Chelsea, 40,000 population, No theater at present”. That does not mean there was no theater there, only that there wasn’t one booking road attractions, which is what the Cahn guides were all about. Joe Vogel says that the Scenic Temple in Chelsea had 1,200 seats and booked both motion pictures and vaudeville acts. If you have a street address then you can create a page for it here in CT.

EdwardFindlay on May 7, 2011 at 4:05 pm

Thanks for looking Ron. I found some information on it as being on the corner of Second Street and Chestnut Street playing a role as a relief station and church after the Great Chelsea Fire of 1908.

If it showed movies please do the honors to it’s history and add it as a new listing.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on May 7, 2011 at 10:32 am

Ed, in the Julius Cahn guides there are virtually no addresses, so that it would just say “Chelsea – Scenic Temple”.

EdwardFindlay on May 5, 2011 at 5:09 am

The Chelsea Scenic Temple- was that listed with an address or simply “Broadway Chelsea” or just “Chelsea”

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on April 21, 2011 at 11:00 am

Correction to my correction above of 3-26-11: there was indeed a Scenic Temple in Quincy MA. It was open as of 1906 presenting movies and vaudeville and was located in a former skating rink/dancehall on Upland Road, near Quincy center.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on April 17, 2011 at 10:35 am

Joe, I knew about the Scenic Temple in Cambridge, but not about the one in Chelsea. And I’ve always assumed that these “Scenic Temples” showed films only, and am surprised to learn that they had active stages, too.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on April 16, 2011 at 4:14 pm

The July, 1915, issue of a religious publication called The Expositor had an item about a deacon of Clarendon Street Baptist Church who, when the church had been holding its meetings at the Scenic Temple, had distributed an advertising circular about the church’s Sunday evening events. The circular said that the evening services included a half hour of movies. It doesn’t give the time period during which this was happening, but it’s clear that the Scenic Temple was used for church services for at least part of the time after it had already been converted into a movie house.

In addition to the Scenic Temples mentioned in earlier comments, there was one in Chelsea, listed as a 1,200-seat, ten-cent vaudeville and picture house in the 1908-1909 edition of Julius Cahn’s Guide. I’ve also found an item in the April 23, 1921, issue of an insurance industry publication called The Standard, saying that the Scenic Temple on Temple Street off Central Square in Cambridge had burned on April 17th, with the loss estimated at $45,000. The house had already been closed for some time.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on April 16, 2011 at 11:40 am

The comedian Fred Allen says in his autobiography that he played in small-time vaudeville at the Scenic Temple in Sept. 1914. However, he says it was on “Clarendon Street” when in reality it was one block away on Berkeley Street. I had no idea that there was anything but film entertainment at these Scenic Temple theaters.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on March 26, 2011 at 12:38 pm

As of Oct. 1914, other movie theaters named “Scenic Temple” were located in Cambridge, Hull, Revere, and Haverhill, in addition to those listed above. There was no Scenic Temple in Quincy, as mentioned above.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on February 26, 2011 at 10:50 am

The 1918 Boston business and street directory also lists this theater.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on February 26, 2011 at 10:47 am

The 1921 Boston business directory lists the Scenic Temple at Berkeley and Warren Ave. under “theatres”. Other cinemas named “Scenic Temple” during the 1918-21 period were the Scenic Temple at 348 Meridian St. in East Boston; the Scenic Temple in the Congress Hall at 220 West Broadway in South Boston; and the Scenic Temple in Mattapan Square (Mattapan Theatre). The Rialto in Providence RI was a Scenic Temple originally; and there may have been a Scenic Temple (or just plain Scenic) in Quincy. I have heard that these movie theaters were affiliated with one another.

MarkB on February 6, 2011 at 8:38 pm

The building was a Congregational church as early as 1883. Between 1902 and 1908 the church was gone. By 1920, they were running boxing matches there – just another live show to fill in the bill I imagine. By 1928 it was called the Scenic Auditorium, and by 1938 it was Police Station 4.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on January 26, 2011 at 12:14 pm

The Scenic Temple, at Berkeley and Warren Ave, is listed in a Boston Business Directory, Issue 85, which I think is 1921. Found it on Google Books. If it is 1921, this means that it was open again as a movie theater after WW I.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on January 6, 2011 at 11:03 am

I have been told that this theater was part of a small circuit of movie theaters named “Scenic Temple”. There were some others in various New England towns.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on November 3, 2009 at 11:35 am

In his article about South End theaters, written around 1980, Paul Chavanne mentions that he had met an elderly lady in the South End who remembered the building both as a church and then as a cinema. She told him that many of the church’s decorative elements, such as murals, were retained in the Scenic Temple. She attended many silient movies there, which were accompanied by a “tinkling piano”.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on October 28, 2009 at 10:48 am

I don’t know much about this theater after it opened as a neighborhood movie house. Paul Chavanne says that in 1918, during the first World War, it was in use as military barracks. I don’t know if it reopened after the war as a cinema again. It was demolished around 1930 to make way for the District 4 police station.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on October 27, 2009 at 10:49 am

The Scenic Temple was located a short distance to the rear of the National Theatre on Tremont St. In research about the theaters in the South End of Boston which he conducted for the South End Historical Society in 1980, the late J. Paul Chavanne stated that the Scenic Temple was converted from the Berkeley Congregatonal Church. Donald King, in his book about Boston theaters, agrees that it was converted from a church, but states that it was known as Berkeley Hall before being named Scenic Temple. Paul Chavanne never mentions Bekeley Hall. The Boston Police Dept.’s District 4 police station was built on the site of the theater.