Arcade Theater

Main Street,
Camden, NY 13316

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ARCADE Theatre; Camden, New Jersey.

The Camden Theater was built in 1916 on the site of the former Opera House which was destroyed by fire earlier that year. The Camden Theater had been renamed Smalley’s Theatre by 1941. It was briefly renamed Arcade Theatre but was destroyed by fire on November 14, 1949.

Interestingly someone had tried to set fire to the building in January 1932.

More information is needed about this theater and the one which was to replace it.

Contributed by robert boehm

Recent comments (view all 10 comments)

robboehm on March 27, 2013 at 5:35 am

The Utica Daily Press indicated that this was the worst fire in Camden since the one which had previously destroyed the Opera House and adjacent business in 1916. Damage for this fire was estimated at $ 100,000 which also took out three other businesses and two apartments.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on March 27, 2013 at 2:04 pm

The September 2, 1916, issue of The Moving Picture World said that James Le Richeux would build a movie theater on the site of the burned opera house in Camden, New York.

An article about the 1932 arson attempt was published in the January 25 issue of the Rome, New York,Daily Sentinel (Google Documents quick view.) It says that the house was called the Park Theatre at that time.

robboehm on March 27, 2013 at 2:36 pm

Joe, the two articles that I encountered on the 1932 fire in the Utica Observer-Dispatch for 1/26/32 and 10/1/32 referred to the theater as the Arcade. It was actually Mrs. Le Richeux who foiled the plot. I found this theater purely by accident when I was on Fulton History looking to get more information on another theater of the same name. Since I encountered a couple of articles I had enough to create the skeletal information to enter it on CT. Amazing how many Arcade’s there were. Guess it hailed back to the days of the Penny Arcade. If I really want to go crazy I could cross reference all Arcades on CT with those on Fulton History. Sure I could find more to add.

robboehm on March 27, 2013 at 2:51 pm

Joe, there are additional references to the 1932 fire other than the two I’ve quoted. There is also a reference in “your” Rome Sentinel in June, 1933 (could be the 8th but the copy isn’t clear) referring to the fire and the name as Arcade. But there are thousands of entries to scan and the quality of the material is not good. I was able to determine that a candle was to be the means. Only in one article did I found out that the projection booth was the site. Then it made sense. Film, particularly in that day was highly incendiary.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on March 27, 2013 at 7:40 pm

The newspaper article I linked to is the only place I’ve seen the name Park Theatre used for this house. As the article was dated January 25, and probably went to press only a few hours after the fire, it’s likely that the Sentinal was reporting in haste (possibly getting the story via the telephone) and got the name wrong.

The Smalley Theatres Records includes items pertaining to a theater in Camden from the 1930s and 1940s. Unless there was another theater in Camden, it must have been this house must have been part of the Smalley chain for some time.

robboehm on March 27, 2013 at 8:25 pm

The article in the Utica Observer-Dispatch of November 17, 1949 in which the (1949) fire was reported mentions that the Smalley organization was leasing the theater from Le Richeaux.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on March 27, 2013 at 8:27 pm

The Smalley records themselves are not available on the Internet, but the guide to them (at the link in my previous comment) says that they include weekly statements sent by theater managers to the main office in Cooperstown. As there is correspondence between managers and the main office, I would imagine that the addresses of the theaters would be on the letterheads. Weekly statements include attendance figures, so they might give some indication of total seating capacities as well. But to see the records you’d have to go to the New York State Historical Association’s research library in Cooperstown.

robboehm on August 29, 2013 at 7:52 pm

Thanks to whoever loaded the photo above. When I spoke to people in the historical society they said they (a) had no photo and (b) no theater was subsequently built on the site. Living on Long Island it’s unlikely that I’ll be doing anything more about this theater; certainly don’t envision a trip to Cooperstown.

robboehm on August 29, 2013 at 7:55 pm

If you look carefully at the photo you can detect the words “Opera House” on the facade of the building. Therefore, this is a picture of the predecessor of the Arcade.

Jack Theakston
Jack Theakston on April 2, 2014 at 1:11 pm

Actually, if you look closely, the keystone says 1916. So it was the “new” Opera House as built by Le Richeux. The original (pictured in this book: was constructed in 1892 and was designed by Leon J. Lempert and Son of Rochester, who designed a number of opera houses in the area, including both the Washington Street Opera House and Lyric Theater in Rome. Lempert, Jr. later designed the Capitol in Rome in 1928.

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