Cattaraugus County Center For the Performing Arts

10 Main Street,
Salamanca, NY 14779

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Seneca Theater...Salamanca New York

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Located in Salamanca, N.Y. the theatre was originally called the Seneca Theatre and built by the Schine Chain to replace an aging venue a couple of blocks up the street. Construction was started in 1941 just before the outbreak of WWII. Because of a shortage of building materials caused by the war, construction was not completed until 1945 after the war ended.

The theatre was called the Seneca after the Indian nation which owns the underlying ground. The entire city of Salamanca is located on the Seneca Indian reservation (I believe it is the only city in the US so located on an Indian reservation). The land is ground-leased from the Senecas and everyone in the town pays an annual Indian rent.

The theatre lobby featured many sculptures in crevices on the walls. It was operated by the Schine Chain until the mid-1960’s. The theatre continued to show movies until June of 1972 when the auditorium ended up under eight feet of water in the flooding which accompanied Hurricane Agnes.

The Seneca Theatre sat abandoned until the early 1980’s when Cattaragus County acquired the building. Over the next several years the theatre was slowly renovated and transformed into the Cattaragus County Center For The Performing Arts. It is now primarily used for local live theatre and travelling acts.

Contributed by Jonathan M. Crist

Recent comments (view all 17 comments)

Patsy
Patsy on November 11, 2006 at 7:32 pm

On Cinema Tour this theatre is listed and the architects are mentioned as being John Eberson AND Drew Eberson. Can anyone verify this? Also on Cinema Tour it lists the theatre as seating 1150 and built in 1942. Also on Cinema Tour a Cattaraugus Theatre in listed in Cattaraugus NY (14 Washington) that is now closed.

Patsy
Patsy on November 11, 2006 at 7:35 pm

This theatre was also known as the Ray Evans Theatre as he was Salamanca and wrote Silver Bells.

Patsy
Patsy on November 11, 2006 at 7:39 pm

Ray Evans, the songwriter of such enduring standards as “Mona Lisa”, “Silver Bells”, “Que Sera, Sera” and “Buttons and Bows,” was born in Salamanca, New York on February 4, 1915.

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SchineHistorian
SchineHistorian on November 12, 2006 at 6:41 pm

Patsy: Later in his life and practice, father and son often joined forces to work on projects. There are quite a few theaters that list both John and Drew as the architects of record.

I have visited it as it was part of the Schine Theater Chain and it really is a lovely little place. It has been quite altered inside due to a couple of floodings and to create more servicable areas to meet the theaters needs. But the facade and marquee are still quite nice and they have started a “Walk of Fame” in front of the theater. Of course Ray Evans is the first and biggest star!

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on July 22, 2007 at 11:35 am

Since 11/06, posters have identified John and Drew Eberson as architects, but the introduction still says “unknown.” Why? David Naylor claims the Ebersons in his book, “"Great American Movie Theaters. Naylor also says that for the reopening as the Cattargus County Arts Center, "the Seneca interior has been adapted to include a 650-seat playhouse, art galleries, a dance studio and meeting rooms.” Since Naylor’s book was published in 1987, that configuration might no longer be true.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on July 22, 2007 at 11:37 am

P.S. Naylor also describes the Seneca’s original style as “late Art Deco.”

TLSLOEWS
TLSLOEWS on October 15, 2010 at 12:01 am

Now thats quite a long name for a theatre.

Patsy
Patsy on May 14, 2012 at 9:40 am

Any interior photos?

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on March 23, 2014 at 9:28 pm

While the John and Drew Eberson Architectural Records from the Wolfsonian Library lists five theaters that John Eberson designed for the Schine circuit, the Seneca Theatre is not among them. In fact, Salamanca is not mentioned in the records at all. I wonder if the theater is just missing from the Wolfsonian’s archive, or if it has been mis-attributed to the Ebersons?

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