Keswick Theater

291 N. Keswick Avenue,
Glenside, PA 19038

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July 11, 2011

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The Keswick Theater is in Glenside, a Montgomery County suburb of Philadelphia. The theater was designed in a Tudor Revival style by Philadelphia architect Horace Trumbauer, who also designed the Philadelphia Art Museum. A private opening on Christmas 1928 was held for the Kiwanis Follies. The Keswick opened to the public on December 27, 1928, with vaudeville and the movie “Glorious Betsy” but without sound, as the theater was wired for sound, but the equipment was not yet ready.

The 1,366-seat Keswick played host to everyone from Paul Robeson to the best big-budget films of the day. In 1955, the theater was remodelled to host Cinemascope films.

In the Spring 1980 the theater closed, and demolition loomed. Community activists organized a nonprofit organization to save the theater, and operated the theater with live shows from 1981 to December 1985, when it closed again.

The Keswick reopened in March 1988 under private ownership, with its current incarnation, as a place to see a wildly diverse array of talent. The acoustically luscious theater was fully refurbished in 1994.

The original theater pipe organ was an Aeolian Organ. The current organ is a 1,700 pipe Moller Theatre Organ, originally installed in 1928 in the Sedgwick Theatre in Philadelphia.

The Keswick was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983. Philadelphia Magazine chose the Keswick as ‘Concert Venue of the Year’ for its ‘Best of Philly’ issue. In 2004, an Arcadia paperback book on the Keswick Theater was published, written by Judith Katherine Herbst.

Contributed by George Q, Ken Duckworth, Howard B. Haas

Recent comments (view all 11 comments)

veyoung52 on November 25, 2004 at 2:01 pm

More techno-history: National Theatres, distributor of the 3-panel CineMiracle film “Windjammer,” booked the film into several Philadelphia-area theatres after its run at the Boyd. With 3 portable interlocked 35mm 6-perforation projectors in the regular booth, “Windjammer” was shown at the Keswick (probably without CineMiracle’s tradmark mirror system) on a flat screen that covered the entire front wall. A single “combined” track was used that mixed down the original 6 channels of sound. It ran concurrently at what is now the Opera House in Lancaster, PA and the Warren in Atlantic City.

veyoung52 on November 27, 2004 at 11:43 pm

Correction: that’s Warner, not Warren in Atlantic City. And at that time the Lancaster Opera House was the King.

dantheman on August 12, 2005 at 6:31 pm

what a treasure. beautiful, intimate setting to see a wide array of entertainment. every bit as good as philly’s tower theater, w/o the traffic hassle. get there 90 minutes before show time, have a nice meal and beverage of choice at one of the very close by eateries, and pretty much just drive away after the show is over. because of the limited seating (approx 1500) traffic concerns are nil. wish I would have ‘discovered’ this gem earlier. have seen such names as: george carlin, traffic, buddy guy, jonny lang and others. look forward next month to seeing the madman himself-ian anderson with jethro tull. accessibility is pretty good, ‘bout 10 minutes from the penn turnpike. do not miss out on an opportunity to check this place out if given one

teecee on September 27, 2005 at 6:26 am

Nice close up of marquee:
View link

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on August 11, 2006 at 7:30 am

There is a new book, just published by Arcadia in the ‘Images of America’ series “The Keswick Theatre” by Judith Katherine Herbst.

It tells the history of the theatre from opening to present day with over 160 historic photographs.

abarry33 on December 18, 2006 at 2:21 pm

The original organ in the theatre was an Aeolian Organ – 3 manual 11 ranks – Opus 1689 . It was installed in 1928. The current organ is
a Moller Organ, Opus 5230 , installed as 3 manuals 19 ranks in the Sedgwick Theatre, Mt. Airy ,Pa. in 1928.

alknobloch on May 22, 2009 at 5:50 pm

On August 4 1990, I was the driver of the tour bus that brought Woody Herman’s Thundering Herd to the Keswick during what may have been their last east coast tour by motorcoach. The band at that time was conducted by Frank Tiberi, and tickets went for $17.00 and $14.00.

I not only got to hear this great band play every night for about 3 weeks, but I also got to play frisbee with them in the parking lots as well!! Quite a gig!

Also have an excellent photo of the poster in the front theater showcase, as well as a front theater view with the band’s name on it – leave a reply should you like me to e-mail them to you.

HowardBHaas on February 10, 2010 at 9:56 am

2 June 1956 Box Office magazine (can find online) p 99 has a photo of Keswick auditorium redone after fire

ERD on July 11, 2010 at 12:54 pm

I am glad that this beautiful theatre was able to be saved and is supported so its future looks good.

gd14lawn on August 7, 2012 at 4:10 pm

From the Montgomery News:

After opening its doors in 1928, the Keswick Theatre has become a favorite historical landmark in Glenside. To help make sure the theater is part of the community for years to come, it is undergoing renovations, which began June 25.

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