Pilgrim Theatre

658 Washington Street,
Boston, MA 02201

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Showing 1 - 25 of 104 comments

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on August 28, 2013 at 6:24 pm

alberwi is correct: the opening day ad is for the Scollay Square Olympia, not this theater. Back when they were in operation, they were known as the “Washington Street Olympia” and the “Scollay Square Olympia”; later the “Pilgrim” and the “Scollay Square”. Although similar in size and both run by Nathan Gordon, they were not identical twins. The Scollay Square Theatre closed long before the Pilgrim.

alberwi on August 28, 2013 at 3:22 pm

rivest266: That ad is for the Olympia Theatre in Scollay Square, not the Olympia on Washington Street that later became known as the Pilgrim.

rivest266 on May 12, 2013 at 2:15 pm

Grand opening ad from November 16th, 1913 has been uploaded here.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on November 1, 2011 at 10:54 am

The January 15, 1913, issue of The American Architect had a brief article titled “Escalators for Theaters” which was illustrated by a photo of the escalator in Gordon’s Olympia Theatre. Google Books scan here.

William on August 29, 2011 at 11:08 pm

The zip code needs to change to 02201.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on May 30, 2011 at 12:00 am

This theatre is currently mapped on the wrong Washington Street (Brighton, instead of downtown Boston), miles from where it belongs.

EdwardFindlay on April 8, 2011 at 7:23 pm

Link to the Historic Boston, Inc. blog post: View link

EdwardFindlay on April 8, 2011 at 5:30 pm

Historic Boston Inc. found inside the historic Hayden Building several of the last film reels from when the Pilgrim, but the gem posted in their blog they posted is this scan of the original edifice of the theatre: View link

Sharp look compared with the later theatres that were built farther up the street that were intended to stand out more…

dick on November 28, 2010 at 4:29 am

I Remamber going to see The Tingler at the Pilgrim. It was thwe only theatre in downturn willing to wire sonme seats for shock. What fun. The Pilgrim was also home to a lot of the first B&W 50’s two bit Alan Freed Rock movies. She was a grand OLD PALACE in the 40’s & 50’s. Its a shame that it was torn down instead of saved and refurbished.

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on February 23, 2010 at 4:17 am

That 1980 photo posted on April 7, 2009 brought back some memories!

iamcontent on February 20, 2010 at 6:38 am

I use to go to the Pilgrim from 1982 as a teen till it closed. Have a lot of fun memories in there. Really liked people watching me with couples

JonMontgomery on January 7, 2010 at 7:42 am

I remember going to the Pilgrim in the 1970’s to see Chesty Morgan perform live. So crowded that me and a friend (in our late 20’s at the time) had to go up to the balcony! Had to use the mens room way down in the basement on the way out. Biggest mens room I’d ever seen but man, it was GROSS and dirty and dimly lit. It stank so bad of urine that you practically had to hold your nose. The whole theater smelled a bit musty too. Only time in there but remember it well.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on October 22, 2009 at 7:35 pm

George F. Will, the noted opinion piece writer at the Washington Post, has a piece “COLA’s Just Keep on Coming” in today’s Boston Herald. He writes that the automatic cost-of-living increase for Social Security recepients was originated by Rep. Wilbur Mills, Democrat of Arkansas, as a means to buy elderly votes when he was seeking the Democrat’s 1972 party nomination for President. Three years later, writes Will, Mills “had his fling with a stripper named Fanne Foxe, aka ‘The Argentine Firecracker’. (Mills joined her on stage at Boston’s exquisitely named Pilgrim Theatre, which specialized in what Time Magazine primly called ‘ecdysiast exhibitions’.)”

doyle on July 18, 2009 at 8:09 pm

Does anyone remember the wallpaper in the lobby? For some odd reason I remember it vividly – at least as vividly as the lighting allowed.
It was a lurid green/silver Art Deco design, obviously a relic of modernization long, long ago.
And yes, I also remember that famous wooden escalator that never worked.
I can’t say I miss the place too much; it literally stank. You could smell the lobby as you approached, like a vast rotten mouth exhaling halitosis at you.

And what about that horror toilet in the cellar…?

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on December 10, 2008 at 12:05 pm

The Pilgrim didn’t become a Chinese restaurant. The nearby Center did, and remains one today.

michaelwo on December 10, 2008 at 12:02 pm

i used to go the the pilgrim in the 80ies, i was in my late teens and twenties then, what great memories i have, i miss the big screen xxx theaters. i also remember the art cinema in tremont , and the pussycat theater in the west end , and didnt the place become a chinese restaurant for a short time ,

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on November 22, 2008 at 7:07 pm

The most notorious incident involving Fanne Foxe at the Pilgrim happened at a Saturday evening performance when she enticed her admirer, Congressman Wilbur Mills, to come up onto the stage and dance with her. He was a short, late-middle-age, dorky-looking doofus in a business suit who had had too much to drink. During their performance, he somehow managed to stumble off the apron of the stage into the orchestra pit. This caused a scandal back in his home state of Arkansas. I have a vague memory that he and Ms. Foxe also waded together one night in a decorative fountain somewhere in downtown Washington. Fanne Foxe’s dressing room backstage at the Pilgrim where Bill O'Reilly interviewed her was probably located down in the basement.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on November 22, 2008 at 4:28 pm

In his recent memoir A Bold Fresh Piece of Humanity, Bill O'Reilly wrote of his student days in Boston at B.U. and contributing articles to several weekly papers. One of his breaks came when he wrote a piece for Free Press on the noted stripper Fanne Foxe. O'Reilly had interviewed her backstage at the Pilgrim Theatre. He wrote:

“On a cool November night, I ventured into Boston’s notorious Combat Zone, a vice-ridden area just north of Boston Common. There, I met Ms. Bombshell backstage at the Pilgrim Theatre, where she was preparing to take off her clothes for three thousand dollars, a hefty one-night sum in 1974.

“The woman was very nice to me and my photographer, Conn O'Neill, two young Irish guys just trying to get through school. In fact, the Foxette actually changed into her costume right before our eyes, displaying an admirable female form. Am I getting paid for this? I thought. The answer was no. But it was okay.”

At this point, on page 114 of the book, O'Reilly quotes what he had written in the article about Ms. Foxe, about Fanne sauntering about the Pilgrim stage and throwing candy to the patrons. The published article was met with some praise, including from film critic Rex Reed. In later years O'Reilly told Reed that he had been directly responsible for his entering the field of mass communications. Reed’s reply was to laugh and say he would pay him not to make that public.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on June 18, 2008 at 6:59 pm

For Christmas week of 1921, the Pilgrim presented the movie “Tol'able David”, plus a show on stage which included “Not Yet, Marie”, a “miniature musical comedy” plus vaudeville acts. The theatre is listed in its Boston Globe ad as “Gordon’s Olympia Washington Street”, and not the usual “Washington Street Olympia”. Their motto was “The Theatre You Go To First”. The ad has a Christmas greeting from Nathan Gordon, plus the note that on Sundays there is a concert running from 3PM to 1030PM. (This was a way to present vaudeville and circumvent “blue laws” by calling it a “concert”.)

rscup on March 19, 2008 at 1:20 pm

Wow, The Pilgrim Theater. Good times. My friends and I used to go there on Monday afternoons. It took nearly ten minutes for our eyes to adjust so that we could move into the theater to choose our “seat”. Even still it was so dark in there that you couldn’t tell which moving spector was your comrade. So, if one of us was to depart before the next, then you would walk to the very back of the theater and call out “swoolie”. This meant that you shouldn’t waste any time trying to find your friend in the dark. This is all before you could just send a text on your mobile. Then, we would go to Filene’s.

I think we all went together for one last whorah the week before it was to close. It was the end of some really great times. I was in my very early 20’s. I still walk past that stretch of Washington Street often and it doesn’t look at all like what I can recall in my memory. It looks more now like 8th Avenue near to 59th Street with its tall doorman towers. Things change kids…

mark edmunds
mark edmunds on December 19, 2007 at 9:45 pm

The Pilgrim Theatre was the main office for American Theatres Corp.
as in some of the post above if you were looking at the theatre from the front, the store on the left(under the marquee) between the theatre and the former ‘Down Town" lounge was the original entry to the offices,(you could also access the offices from inside the theatre) after converted to a “junk store” that had knifes, pot pipes, and other bizare things for sale in the front, as you walked to the dirty book store part in the back the floor had a sloping angle as this was the screening room that the ATC brass viewed previews and you could see the projection ports on the wall. I regret I was in Fla. when they tore the place down because at the entrance way to the offices out side was black granite tile with American Theatres Corporation embedded in silver deco letters would have made a nice souveneir!

randini on November 12, 2007 at 4:07 pm

The marquee of the Pilgrim is prominently featured in the new hit documentary feature “Spine Tingler: The William Castle Story” which won Best Documentary at the AFI Fest in LA yesterday. Does anybody remember attending one of Castle’s famous gimmick events there? “The Tingler” (1959) was the one with the famous butt-buzzing wired seats.