121 S. Broad Street,
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The Edwin Forrest Theatre was built in place of the Lippincott Building as a live performance hall. It was the predecessor to the city’s much longer-running performance art space. Located in the business district of Philadelphia, the original Forrest’s cornerstone was laid November 27, 1906 with the inclusion of a time capsule.
Marshall & Fox Architects of Chicago usage of buff bricks and terra cotta on the face belied the building’s rugged frame. Extra thick concrete floors and structural steel were said to make the theatre one of the safest ever built. Cantilever design meant no columns blocking views and there were no stair-wells in the Forrest Theatre – just ramps and inclines. It was the only legitimate theatre in Philadelphia which had a below-street-level orchestra seating floor.
The theatre launched September 2, 1907 likely on a 20-year leasing agreement with what was called “advanced vaudeville”. It took 1,000 gallons to run the curtain on the theatre’s large 49ft deep by 90ft wide stage. By 1912, the theatre was a hybrid photoplay / vaudeville house.
Coming to the end of its leasing cycle, the aging 1,820 seat house seemed dated playing silent Tom Mix films in the era of movie palaces and sound film. A plan for a new, performing arts Forrest Theatre was unveiled more in the Edwin Forrest’s original plans back in 1906. The original Forrest Theatre closed strong with on February 27, 1927 after two weeks of the show, “Collette”.
Demolition crews struggled in March of 1927 to demolish the structure with its 14" thick concrete and massive amounts of steel. However, they succeeded not forgetting to retrieve and open the cooper time capsule box laid 20 years prior. The Forrest Theatre was replaced by the Fidelity Trust Building.
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