William Penn Theatre
4063 Lancaster Avenue,
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The William Penn Theatre was an entertainment palace in West Philadelphia with vaudeville and movies envisioned by Gustavus A. Wegefarth, best known for the Grand Opera House. Wegefarth announced the ambitious project in 1905 at $500,000 with plans by architect Carl P. Berger.
While the project was being built, Wegefarth committed suicide in 1907 and the project stalled. Offered at sheriff’s sales three times between 1907 and 1908, the stalled project was finally brought to completion with some revisions by architect Matthew Schmid & Son.
The 3,000 seat venue launched September 20, 1909 with vaudeville and Motiograph short films. The theatre was refreshed in 1914 and given a final makeover to the plans of architectural firm Hoffman-Henon Co. in 1925/6 as the theatre tried to update. The theatre did not convert to sound films and closed in 1929 with live plays.
The building was vacant and suffered a toppled water tower in 1931 and a lightning strike in 1935 that knocked bricks to the ground. This was likely its undoing as a salvage sale occurred and Central Wrecking Salvage razed the building in April of 1936.
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