101 Sixth Street,
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Originally built in 1903 as the Gayety Theatre, it opened on Halloween night, 1904 with Harry Houdini performing and a seating capacity for 2,000. It ran for many years as one of the country’s foremost stage and vaudeville houses, with appearances from such stars as Ethel Barrymore, Gertrude Lawrence and Helen Hayes.
The Gayety Theatre boasted pressed copper cheribs painted with a bronze patine, imitation gold leaf, stained glass windows, plaster columns and wainscot of scagolia, and Italian faux marble technique.
In the entry vestibule, note the original mosaic tile floor and the many bare light bulbs lining the ceiling, evidence of the advent of electrical lighting.
Backstage, the theater was one of the remaining few to use sandbags and hemp ropes to work the scenery rigging until 1999 when a modern rigging system was installed.
In the 1930’s, the theater was renamed the Fulton Theatre and become a full time motion picture theater with 1,800 seats. The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust puchased the theater in 1990 and following the first of four planned phases of renovation, the Fulton Theatre was reopened in May 1991. It was later renamed the Byham Theatre through a naming right from the Byham family following the second phase of renovation in 1995.
The old lighted Fulton marquee has been restored by the State Museum of Pennsylvania in Harrisburg and will be installed there as part of a theatre exhibit.
The second phase of rennovations brought new restrooms, box office, marquee, an elevator, lobby improvements and facade changes. In 1997, the Cherub Lobby was restored to its original splendor.
The third phase of renovation in 1999 updated the theater rigging system, enlarged the orchestra pit and provided new HVAC for the entire building. Excavation under the stage and seating area will provide space for future dressing rooms.
The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust continues to address the needs of the Byham Theatre. These types of renovations are driven by the contributions of its attentive supporters, and with ongoing support the Cultural District will continue to improve and develop.
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