Winthrop Hall Theatre

570 Columbia Road,
Dorchester, MA 02125

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Winthrop Hall was located in Uphams Corner, a section of the Dorchester area of Boston (south of downtown). It was a meeting hall which was converted to a theater in the 1890’s and later became a movie house. It was located in a distinctive brick building about 5 stories high, with a gable roof and a corner tower. The theater may have been upstairs on the second floor. It is unclear if this operation survived into the sound era.

Contributed by Ron Salters

Recent comments (view all 24 comments)

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on March 25, 2011 at 1:18 pm

Yes, sometimes there are many loose ends when one attempts to present facts about a theater 80 years later! My comments above on March 19 are somewhat incorrect when I say that “Still later, it was a bank branch”. The bank came first, before the Uphams Theater, of course. I went back to the 1921 business and street directory. Under “Theatres” it lists the Winthrop Hall Th. at 570 Columbia Road. But when I started going down the street listings for Columbia Road, it had the WH Theatre at # 572. It lists the Strand Garage at 568- Rear; the Dorchester Bank at 570, and the WH Theater at 572. Also in the theater building was the meeting room of the Knights and Ladies of Honor. I think that the bank branch was also there in the 1918 Directory. We know that the ground floor of that building had commercial tenants, and the bank may have been one of them.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on March 25, 2011 at 1:35 pm

One of the links that Ed Findlay has posted above is to an interesting article written in June 1983 for the Dorchester Argus by Boston Herald TV critic Anthony LaCamera who writes about attending movies as a kid in Dorchester, 1920s- 1930s. He implies that the Winthrop Hall Theater became the Uphams Theater, but that’s not the case. They were 2 different theaters almost in the same location.

EdwardFindlay
EdwardFindlay on March 26, 2011 at 5:21 am

The 1910 and 1918 maps confirm 570 Columbia to be an address for the Winthop Hall building in addition to 572 Columbia. If it is shown as being at 570 in the 1918 directory when the directory was published is the timeframe for when the bank moved into the Winthrop Hall building as the information in the atlas is probably at least a few months older than the directory.

EdwardFindlay
EdwardFindlay on March 26, 2011 at 6:23 am

Here’s the 1918 business directory, Winthrop Hall Theatre is one of three businesses listed at that address: View link

Another 1918 business directory, this one a gold mine for pre-1920s theatres: View link

And I think we finally have the closing date after all debate!

Mentioned here as showing movies as early as 1914 per the biography of a projectionist: View link

EdwardFindlay
EdwardFindlay on March 26, 2011 at 6:26 am

Edit- biography didn’t solve anything, was typing something else and didn’t notice it still in there. Biography just giving some information simply that someone worked there 1914-1924 as a projectionist, so it’s clear that they were showing movies into the 20s after the Strand opened.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on March 26, 2011 at 1:04 pm

Yes, we know from the link to Fred Allen’s autobiography posted above that the Winthrop Hall Theater was showing movies in addition to vaude on stage as of Feb. 1914. And we know from the Anthony LaCamera 1983 article linked to above that he attended movies there as a kid in the 1920s. Plus, the 1927 Film Daily Yearbook listed it as open. So it appears that when the Strand opened across the street in 1918 the Winthrop Hall remained operating for several years.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on April 17, 2011 at 12:59 pm

I finally found the “Then and Now” photos I mentioned above. I can’t believe I copied photos from this book and did not record the title and year of the book, which was a treatise on Boston architecture, back “then”, and “now” (1980s?) It has a circa-1910 photo looking across at the big Columbia Square Building with the Winthrop Hall just to its left. The WH was 5 stories high. The theater entrance may have been on the left end of the facade, at the base of the tower. The second photo is the same scene as of 1982 or so. The WH building has been chopped down to 3 stories, containing a bank, behind a new facade. It’s difficult to tell if the buildings next to it are the same ones there when the Uphams Theatre opened in 1941. They may be.

EdwardFindlay
EdwardFindlay on April 17, 2011 at 1:18 pm

Mr. Salters- is this the book you are referring to? View link

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on April 17, 2011 at 1:25 pm

Ed- No, not that book, which is a Dover Publ., and which I have. This was a different book, which came out in the 1980s and was very interesting, but when I Xeroxed a few photos from it, I failed to note the title, author, and date published. After copying the photos, I must have sold the book.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on June 27, 2011 at 12:41 pm

In the Google Street View photo above, the bank building with the green trim and the clock on the facade is the location of Winthrop Hall Theatre.

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