Rowland Theatre

907 Wood Street,
Wilkinsburg, PA 15221

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Buster Maxwell lamenting the demolition of the Roland Theater

Viewing: Photo | Street View

The Rowland Theatre was opened October 23, 1911. It was closed in February 1965, and was demolished in 1976.

Contributed by Robert S. Dorsett

Recent comments (view all 7 comments)

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on October 1, 2014 at 4:40 pm

An article about the lighting in the Rowland Theatre at Wilkinsburg begins on page 199 of the August, 1913, issue of Lighting Journal (Google Books scan. Scroll up one page for the beginning of the article.) There are three photos of the auditorium.

A lawsuit filed against the Rowland Theatre in 1914 reveals that another theater already existed on the property Richard A. Rowland bought for this house, and that Rowland remodeled that theater at the same time the Rowland was being built adjacent to it. I haven’t been able to discover the name of that earlier theater, but it might have been the Colonial.

An article beginning on page 405 of the July 15, 1916, issue of The Moving Picture World (Google Books scan) recounts the career of Richard Rowland, and mentions the Colonial Theatre n Wilkinsburg as one of his early acquisitions.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on June 11, 2015 at 9:25 pm

The Rowland Theatre was to open on October 23, according to a belated item in the October 28, 1911, issue of The New York Clipper. The item said that the new house, which would open with vaudeville, had been “…modeled after Maxine Elliot’s playhouse in New York.”

BusterMaxwell
BusterMaxwell on May 13, 2016 at 7:34 pm

Joe,

Thanks for your detailed notes! I posed for some artistic photos INSIDE the theater during demolition, and I’ll attempt to post on this page…I THINK the theater was the ROWLAND…the address looks vaguely familiar (this was mid-70’s)….Do you remember if there was yet another theater nearby?

My photos have similar architectural features to those pics in the Lighting Journal ;)

Thank you!

Buster Maxwell Musical Komedy Company Pittsburgh PA http://www.BusterMaxwell.com

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on May 13, 2016 at 9:57 pm

Buster: As far as I know, the Rowland was the only purpose-built theater in Wilkinsburg. The town might have had some earlier nickelodeon-style theaters in converted storefronts, but they’d have been long gone by the time the Rowland was demolished in 1976.

BusterMaxwell
BusterMaxwell on May 30, 2016 at 12:17 pm

Thank you, Joe! New caption: “Pittsburgh performer Buster Maxwell in “Pierrot” costume, posing inside the Rowland during it’s demolition phase in 1976. Photos by Pittsburgh’s late, great Rich Martin.”

Nunzio
Nunzio on October 31, 2016 at 8:01 am

There were two movie houses beside the Rowland. The Regal on Wood St. near the train tracks. Almost directly across from the Rowland was the State. Mostly double feature B movies with a cartoon, newsreel, previews, and a serial designed to suck in impressionable kids like yours truly Saturday after Saturday. After closing the G. C. Murphy store expended into the building.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on October 31, 2016 at 6:55 pm

Thanks for the update, Nunzio. I’ve found the Regal mentioned in 1929, 1937, and 1946. The earliest mention of the State I’ve found was published in 1946, but concerned the arrival of a new assistant manager at the house in 1940.

A 1937 ad reveals that the Rowland and the Regal were then both operated by Warner Bros., and the 1946 item indicates that the State was a Warner house as well. As the State was not included in Warner’s 1937 ad, it might have been either built or taken over by the chain between 1937 and 1940.

I’ve also come across an item mentioning a movie house called the Doris Theatre operating in Wilkinsburg in 1916. The only earlier Wilkinsburg theaters I’ve found mentioned in the trade publications were the Rowland, 1911, and the Colonial, which was in operation by 1910.

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