Puritan Theatre

1741 Washington Street,
Boston, MA 02118

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sweetmel
sweetmel on May 19, 2012 at 10:47 pm

I live right around the corner from it now. I remember riding the old orange line and it’s so odd to see the street now. The tracks cast quite a shadow didn’t they?

MarkB
MarkB on November 17, 2011 at 5:15 pm

1938 map:

http://i1080.photobucket.com/albums/j324/MarkBul/puritantheatre1938.jpg

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on June 23, 2011 at 10:49 am

In the Street View photo above, the Puritan was located where the 6-story brick building is, to the right of the 2-story corner building with the green awning.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on May 3, 2011 at 11:06 am

The facade was a light-grey color.

RickB
RickB on May 1, 2011 at 1:35 pm

Both features on the marquee in the photo were 1956 releases.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on May 1, 2011 at 12:20 pm

The Puritan looks good in that photo. Too bad they have the approx. time it was taken, but not the year— Just an estimate, 1954-59.

EdwardFindlay
EdwardFindlay on April 20, 2011 at 8:49 pm

A rarity, I get to post a picture of a theatre before someone else!

A picture of the theatre from the Washington Street Elevated station: View link

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on February 16, 2011 at 10:37 am

In a 1918 Boston stsreet directory, the Puritan is listed at 1741 Washington Street, west side of street, north of the Mass. Ave. intersection.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on March 3, 2006 at 8:21 am

Those are good memories, postcon ! I had forgotten that there was a small take-out window on the sidewalk— not many theatres had such a feature. Did your Dad ever mention how many seats the Puritan had? Also, did you and your sister explore back-stage?

postcon
postcon on March 3, 2006 at 7:55 am

I have fond memories of the Puritan as my dad Henry “Hank” Goodman was the manager of this theatre in the early 60’s.My mom would take my sister and I to the Northampton elevated stop to visit my dad.I remember the Olympia flower store,Chico’s?,and there was a diner across the street.Sometime there werent enough customers,so my dad would shut down the balcony,and me and my sister would be all alone up there!Mostly I remember the concessions!!!Penny candy,hot dogs,cotton candy,popcorn(with real butter if you wanted it),and soft ice cream.Also had a take-out stand to the sidewalk.I’ll query my sis,and see what she remembers.Any questions?

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on February 25, 2006 at 3:05 am

The Puritan Theatre is near the bottom left corner of this 1928 map. It is on the left (north) side of Washington Street, between West Springfield St. and Massachusetts Ave.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on February 21, 2006 at 7:40 am

There was another theater not far from the Puritan; it was on the opposite (east) side of Washington Street about one-half to two-thirds of a mile to the south. It was a brick building with an elevated stage-house to the rear. It could be easily seen from the “el” train between Northampton and Dudley. (Right side of train when going north towards downtown.) There were several “Nabes” in Roxbury. Looking through the various MGM Reports from 1941, there is a Roxbury Theatre at 2170 Washington St. It has 650 seats with one balcony. The competing theatres are listed as : Puritan, Dudley and Rivioli. I’m assuming that this is the theatre in quesiton. I passed it many times on the train between 1968 and 1975 and it was closed the entire time. The marquee and signage had been removed.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on October 16, 2005 at 8:31 am

I went into the Puritan one rainy afternoon after lunch in the early 1960s. I was surprised to find almost a full house. Although I don’t think that the balcony was open. You went straight in from Washington St. The orchestra floor was very steeply raked. I always assumed that it had run under a different name originally, because “Puritan” sounded like an EM Loew update! But it was always the Puritan. The elevated railway went right by it, and you could see it very well from the right side of a train to Northampton Station and Forest Hills. It had a rather fancy facade which was a light gray color. There was an elevated stage house in back. I would estimate that it had about 1000 seats or so, and was in good condition when I went into it. I seem to recall that after the fire which damaged the interior, it did not remain standing very long afterward. The Columbia Th. is a completely different theatre and was also located in the South End, on the opposite side of Washington Street, the east side, just south of the big cut which contains today the Mass Pike and the Amtrak and MBTA rail lines. The elevated railway (later Orange Line) to Forest Hills also ran past the Columbia. I first noticed it circa 1952, but never went into it, alas!

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on August 24, 2005 at 7:53 am

No, the Puritan was over a mile south of the Columbia on Washington Street. I remember seeing the Puritan in the mid-1970s before it burned down.

dguss
dguss on August 24, 2005 at 7:45 am

I think the Columbia Theatre and Puritan may have been the same. Elliot Norton claims it opened in 1891 and then Don King writes it had a fire in 1916 when it was called the South End Theatre. E. M. Loew had Thomas Lamb redesign it and the next year it reopened as the Columbia once again. Both of them state that it had a tall Moorish facade which is what the Nichan Bichajian photo of it in Lois Craig’s Images of Boston clearly shows. Once again, Norton claims it was located near the corner of Washington and Herald Street. Is this where you locate it, Ron? If so, the Columbia, South End, Puritan, and finally the Teatro Americano would all be the same.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on June 21, 2005 at 3:23 am

The South End Historical Society sent me a copy of their November 1982 newsletter, with an article by J. Paul Chavanne about the history of theatres in that neighborhood. Of this one, he says:

“In 1911, architect James S. Ball planned the Puritan Theatre at 1741 Washington St. near Massachusetts Avenue. The Puritan presented small-time vaudeville and films. A Marr and Colton organ was installed during the silent film era. In the 1970s, the house was renamed the Teatro America and showed Spanish language pictures. The theatre was destroyed by fire on January 8, 1977.”

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on June 3, 2005 at 7:16 am

The South End Historical Society sent me another reply today:

“The Puritan Theatre, to the best of our knowledge, was used as a
Spanish-language cinema called Teatro America, beginning sometime after
mid-1973 and until its burning in very early 1977. It does not appear to
have been used as a Spanish-language cinema before 1973.”

They also promise me more information on the (currently unlisted) Columbia Theatre next week.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on May 31, 2005 at 6:36 pm

And here’s my first reply, from the South End Historical Society:

“The Puritan Theatre, according to the photo captions, was built in 1911 and
designed by James S. Ball, and destroyed by fire in the first week of
January, 1977. We have a 1973 photograph of the building, and it’s boarded
up, but the Puritan sign was still there, and it also had an EM Loew’s sign.

“I’ll check around to see when it was showing Spanish language movies, and
under what name.

“There was also the Columbia Theatre on Washington Street, which was
demolished in 1956. It was built in the 19th century, so it wasn’t designed
for film, but it became a movie house later. I’ll see what other info I can
find on this theater.”

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on May 31, 2005 at 7:17 am

The top photo on this page shows the historic Minot Hall (Smith Block) at right, and a newly-built six-story addition at left. That addition now stands where the Puritan Theatre used to be. The Olympia Flower Store is just out of view, to the left of the photo.

I’ve sent e-mail enquiries to various South End organizations that are online, including the Minot Hall board of directors. If I get any replies, I’ll post them here.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on May 31, 2005 at 4:11 am

I can try to find a Spanish-language newspaper from the 1970s at the Boston Public Library, and see if it had an advertisement for this theatre. I don’t know anyone at Villa Victoria or the South End Historical Society, but people there might know as well.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on May 31, 2005 at 2:40 am

Very interesting, Ron. Think any folks at local Spanish-language radio stations or publications might remember its name during those days? I will probably go to my grave thinking this place was called the “Olympia” at one time. And, who knows? You may uncover some proof that it was. Could it be that it was the name of a flower shop I was remembering? Perhaps I should have posted my memory on “flowershoptreasures.org.”

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on May 30, 2005 at 4:34 pm

The street address 1741 Washington no longer exists; the numbers now jump from 1723 (a newly-built extension to the Smith Block, where the theatre used to be) directly to 1745 (Olympia Flower Store).

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on May 24, 2005 at 7:39 pm

According to a Boston Globe article published on March 5, 2000, this theatre spent its last years as a Spanish-language cinema, then burned in 1977.

Does anyone know what name it had when it showed Spanish films?

bdsouthe
bdsouthe on May 4, 2005 at 1:37 pm

Actually, this theatre was not in Roxbury, but in the South End between what is now Olympia Flowers and The Smith Block on the west side of Washington St. There is a partial view of it in the book “Boston’s South End” by Anthony Mitchell Sammarco on p. 83. I believe I’ve also seen a photo taken from the old Northampton station on the former elevated Orange Line, but I don’t remember where I saw the photo.