Congress Hall

220 West Broadway,
South Boston, MA 02127

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Congress Hall in South Boston was a meeting and function hall, possibly dating back to the 19th Century, which was converted into a very early motion picture theater. It may have been on the second floor. Around 1918-1920 it was one of the Scenic Temple film theaters. It was still open as late as 1927 but may not have been converted to sound after that.

Contributed by Ron Salters

Recent comments (view all 8 comments)

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on March 19, 2011 at 1:43 am

This 1908 book mentions the Congress Hall Scenic Temple in South Boston, managed by James F. Powers. Apparently the house used both names simultaneously, probably to differentiate itself from other theaters in the area called the Scenic Temple.

There are many references to Scenic Temples in Boston, but there were multiple theaters using the name and I’ve been unable to sort them out. A 1914 Moving Picture World item concerns a William Bradstreet, who was planning to rebuild his Scenic Temple Theatre in Boston. He was said to be the owner of a chain of theaters in the area, so he might have operated the Congress Hall house and other Scenic Temple locations as well.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on March 19, 2011 at 10:37 am

Yes, someone who was familiar with film distribution in Boston many years ago told me that these “Scenic Temples” were affiliated with one another. I wrote up a partial list of them which I posted last month under Scenic Temple, Boston (CT 30432). I have seen the Congress Hall in South Boston listed in old street directories under “Public Halls”.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on March 19, 2011 at 11:53 am

In the 1919 Boston Police Reports which Ed Findlay linked to on the page for the Day Square Th. in E. Boston, there is mention that one William Sweeney was appointed Special Police Officer at Congress Hall Theatre, 220 Broadway in South Boston for the year ending March 31, 1920. This appointment was made on the application of James F. Powers, owner of the Congress Hall Theatre. So James Powers was still there 11 years after the publication of the book which Joe Vogel mentions above.

Ret. AKC (NAC) CCC Bob Jensen, Manteno, Illinois
Ret. AKC (NAC) CCC Bob Jensen, Manteno, Illinois on March 19, 2011 at 8:03 pm

Open ~1935? Can anyone verify the exact dates?

Owned by Smith, Phillip Theatrical Enterprises.

More info and photos always welcome/

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on March 21, 2011 at 11:02 am

Joe Cifre, who was a theater professional and a Boston theater historian in the mid-20th Century, wrote that Congress Hall was one of the early Boston movie venues. Some of the cinemas he mentions were store-front nickleodeons (he calls them “Store-Show Theaters”). I don’t know where some of these were located, such as the “King Theatre”, “Queen Theatre”, Back Bay theatre, Empire Th., Court Street Theatre. I know that the Monaco Theatre was near North Station.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on March 22, 2011 at 11:16 am

The 1927 Film Daily Yearbook lists Congress Hall, with 500 seats.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on March 24, 2011 at 11:30 am

In the Boston business and street directories for both 1918 and 1921, this theater is listed at 220 West Broadway as “Congress Hall Scenic Temple.”

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on April 4, 2011 at 11:09 am

This theater is not to be confused with an earlier Congress Hall which, according to Don King’s books, was located downtown starting in the 1830s in or near the Globe Hotel at Hanover & Commercial streets.

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