Court Square Theater
11 Elm Street,
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Previously operated by: E.M. Loew's Theaters Inc.
Architects: John Bailey McElfatrick
Firms: J. B. McElfatrick and Sons
Previous Names: Gilmore's Court Square, E.M. Loew's Court Square
The Court Square Theater opened on September 21, 1892 and was closed/demolished in 1956. Located at Court Square directly across from City Hall, this ornate palace presented live theater-movie combos right up to its closing in 1956. For a brief period of time under the management of E.M. Loew’s Theatres, it exhibited grade B movies without live stage shows.
The building directly in front opened as a hotel in 1891. Later converted to offices, it now has been renovated back to an exclusive hotel scheduled to open simultaneously with the new convention center. Directly behind, where the theater once stood, is a parking lot. Interestingly, to gain access to the parking lot, one must drive through what was once the Court Square’s lobby.
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Addendum to the above. I recall my father telling me that in his single days he and his buddies would pay a dime and go up to the top balcony and sleep off a night on the town on long church type pews prior to going home.
The MGM Theatre Photograph and Report form for the Court Square Theatre in Springfield has a facade photo taken in May 1941. There was a rectangular multi-bulbed movie marquee with the E.M. Loew logos on either side of the name on the front. A card with something about “Vaudeville” is posted above one of the double entrance doors. The address is listed as “Elm Square” and the person who did the Report wrote “2 doors off Main St.” on it. The Report states that the Court Square is not a MGM customer, that the theatre is over 15 years old; that it’s in Fair condition; and has 700 seats on the main floor and 398 in the balcony, total: 1,098 seats. (Since it was an old 19th-century legiter,it may have had 2 balconies). It was a live road-show house in Springfield for many years.
The Court Square Theatre is listed in the 1897-98 edition of Julius Cahn’s Official Theatrical Guide, an annual publication for roadshow producers and stage managers. The seating capacity is given as 1,865. Ticket prices were 25 cents to $1. The theatre was on the ground floor. The building was served by both gas lighting and electricity. The proscenium opening was 35 feet wide, and the stage was 50 feet deep. Nearby hotels were: Gilmore, Haynes, Cooley, City, and Mansion Hotel. The 1897 population of Springfield was 50,000.
In the 1980’s occasional live performances and/or outdoor movies in the parking lot on the site of the theatre. They actually had a marque with twinkling lights, and when you walk through the entrance and into the parking lot, there was a large screen off to the right just about where the back wall of the stage would have been. Every time I saw it, I regretted I wasn’t around when the building still stood.
It is my understanding that Ed Gardner (Archie of “Duffy’s Tavern”) was a manager of the Court Square in the late 30’s. I recall seeing many plays there, including “Diamond Lil” with Mae West, “Harvey” with Frank Fay and “Mr. Roberts” with John Forsythe, as well as many vaudeville/film combination shows, all in the late 40’s. Great theater, many memories!!
The Court Square Theatre was one of 9 downtown Springfield theaters on a long list of theaters and halls in MA which received state licenses during the 12 months ending Oct. 31, 1914. The others were the Bijou, Broadway, Gilmore, Globe, Hudson, Nelson, Plaza, and Poli-Palace.
I have a poster from the Gilmore Theatre and also The Court Square Theatre from 1800’s. I’m interested in parting with them.
An 1893 Springfield Republican article about the opening of the Empire Theatre in Holyoke noted that the new house resembled the Court Square Theatre, which had been designed by the same architectural firm, J.B. McElfatrick & Son.
My father grew up in Springfield in the early 20th century and talked so often about vaudeville and the Court Square Theater. He played banjo for Gatchell’s stringed orchestra. Any info on Gatchell, Professor Gatchell and that stringed orchestra/band would be appreciated.
Previous Name Gilmore was spelled with only one “L”. 1907 photo added courtesy Springfield Preservation Trust collection confirms such.