Civic Theatre

477 Congress Street,
Portland, ME 04102

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Opened in 1908, Keith’s Theatre could seat 1,600, and presented vaudeville, stage shows, and occassional movies before switching over to movies entirely by the 1920’s.

The theater was later known as the Civic Theatre. It was was demolished in the 1960’s for a parking lot.

Contributed by Bryan Krefft

Recent comments (view all 11 comments)

William
William on November 21, 2003 at 9:12 am

The Civic Theatre is located at 477 Congress Street and it seated 1355 people as of 1955.

deleted user
[Deleted] on March 24, 2004 at 11:33 am

i live near portland maine i have been told that the civic theatre has been torn down years ago. in its place there is a large parking garage.
mike m.

Roger Katz
Roger Katz on April 1, 2004 at 5:52 pm

477 Congress Street is Merrill Auditorium, formerly the City Hall Auditorium, opened in 1912 as part of the city hall complex. It seats 1900 people. I don’t think that this is the building pictured in the postcard on this page, and I’m not sure it is the building described either.

deleted user
[Deleted] on April 2, 2004 at 5:59 am

477 congress st is where the keiths theatre was it became the civic
theatre years later. it was torn down years ago.that is called the village green there are some shops and a coffee shop.the portland symphony orchestra has a office there in the village green. but there
concerts are in the merrill auditorium that was called city hall
auditorium it was restored a nember of years ago its now a very nice place to see a show or concerts and sometime plays.

justmaine
justmaine on March 31, 2005 at 5:45 pm

This theater was torn down in the early 1960’s, and replaced with a multi-storey parking lot. It was owned, at the time, by Casco Bank. Its President, Halsey Smith, had commissioned architects to prepare a plan to refurbish it, and the bank committed to spending about $250,000 to do the work. They sought a group who would commit to take it over, and be responsible for any operating losses. At the time—before the rise of awareness in the value of preservation—no one was interested, so the bank retreated, and had it torn down. Consultants from Actors' Equity in New York, said it had acoustics that could not be replicated. It was a real tragedy. It was beautifully decorated with plaster cherubs and intricate deatils.
Remnants of the decoration can still be seen in the surviving Preble Street entrance. Dick Paulson, March 31, 2005

justmaine
justmaine on March 31, 2005 at 5:50 pm

P.S. The Katz posting, on April 1, 2004, is mistaken. The Merrill Auditorium—formerly called City Hall Auditorium, is behind City Hall, at 389 Congress St.

teecee
teecee on April 15, 2005 at 12:15 pm

old photo & history:
View link

dp53
dp53 on May 13, 2005 at 2:12 pm

Although the Civic Theater itself was torn down, the the Civic Arcade, which served as the lobby to what the Casco Bank Building and an entrance-way to the theater, is about to be restored to its original design. In the 50s-60s, the arcade had two banks, a coffee shop, a Class-D post-office-stamp collector’s shop, a religious articles store, a radio station (WPOR) a pet store (The Dog House), a visiting Santa and Sleigh during the Christmas season, and a maze of music studios on the level below. It also had a flooring and carpet shop and when the Civic was closed in ‘63, the Civic became a storage site for rolls of linoleum and carpeting for the shop.

One thing though, I’ve always been puzzled by the design of the building, the theater, and its relation to the original Keith’s. In the earliest postcards I’ve seen entrances to Keiths NEXT to the Longfellow house on Congress Street, where Days Jewelry store later was. The second entrance was on Preble St and served as a secondary entrance to the theater and the arcade.

It was a great old theater though – I went there lots of times when I was a kid.

kencmcintyre
kencmcintyre on September 20, 2007 at 6:33 am

Here is a 1949 ad from the Portland Sunday Telegram:
http://tinyurl.com/2pn9zh

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on September 15, 2008 at 11:27 am

The Keith’s Theatre (later the Civic) opened on Jan. 27, 1908 with 1,355 seats and was designed by Albert E. Westover, according to info at Theatre Historical Society of America

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