425 Hampshire Street,
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Opened June 15, 1924 as the Washington Square Theater. It was named for the park of the same name which it faces in downtown Quincy. The Washington Theater was one of many vaudeville and movie houses on Hampshire Street, which was Quincy’s own “Great White Way”. Most of the theatres, such as the Adams Theatre, the Orpheum Theatre, the Bijou Theatre, the Quincy Theatre and the Savoy Theatre have either long ago been closed, or more commonly, torn down.
The Italian Renaissance-style Washington Theater, which seated just under 1,500, was designed by Chicago architect E.P. Rupert. It featured a Barton 3 manual, 7 rank organ, and a depiction of George Washington on the fire curtain. Its ornate facade was covered in terra-cotta, including polychrome masks of comedy and tragedy.
In 1926, the Chicago-based chain of Balaban & Katz assumed control of the Washington Theater, and not only remodeled its decor, but added a new stage, an air-conditioning system, rebuilt the dressing rooms and, a couple years later, wired the Washington Theater for sound, becoming Quincy’s first “talking pictures” house, with the film “The Lights of New York”. Vaudeville and stage shows were featured as well through the 1930’s under Balaban & Katz.
In 1971, the Washington Theater was sold to the Kerasotes Theatres chain, which continued to operate the theatre as a first-run house for another eleven years. After closing the theatre, Kerasotes donated the Washington Theater to the City of Quincy. From the late-1980’s until 2000, another organization owned the building and while it made repairs to the facade and storefronts, the auditorium was used for storage space.
In 2000, the City of Quincy once more acquired the Washington Theatrer, and since then, the Friends of the Washington Theater have been raising money (its goal is $1.1 million for the initial phase of restoration) to return the landmarked old movie palace (which has fallen into a state of disrepair over the years) to its former splendor.
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