Savoy Theatre

3030 14th Street NW,
Washington, DC 20010

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Savoy Theatre

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The Savoy Theatre was built in 1913 on 14th Street, in the Columbia Heights area of Washington. The architect, B. Stanley Simmons designed the facade in a stylized Colonial Revival design, with the three false windows on the second floor surrounded by simple terra-cotta decor, including garland swags and lion’s heads. Over the large cornice was a large inscribed rectangle for the theater’s name (although the name was never inscribed).

The Savoy Theatre’s 1,400-seat auditorium was elaborately decorated and the lobby walls were lined with gilded mirrors and green marble. The lobby floor resembled an ancient Roman mosaic, with a huge “S” in the center, inside a lyre. Originally, an open air second theater space was adjacent to the Savoy’s main entrance, though this later disappeared. Before air-conditioning, during the muggy summer season, audiences could watch silent films in shaded comfort.

Less than three years after it opened, the Savoy Theatre was remodeled and enlarged, by Simmons again and was taken over by Harry Crandell. During the mid-to-late 1910’s, the Savoy Theatre was Washington’s largest movie house. By 1941, the Savoy Theatre was operated by Warner Bros. Circuit Management Corp.

Unfortunately, the theater fell into decline during the 1950’s and 1960’s, and was set ablaze during the 1968 riots. What remained of the Savoy Theatre was torn down three years later, and today a subway station is on the site.

Contributed by Bryan

Recent comments (view all 18 comments)

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on March 11, 2009 at 6:59 pm

Here is an exterior view of Crandall’s Savoy.

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on June 20, 2009 at 4:52 pm

Since there is no caption, what is the source of the photo?

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on July 7, 2009 at 10:18 am

Opened February 1, 1914. Here is an article about the Savoy from The Moving Picture World July 24, 1915:

“THE SAVOY THEATER, located at Fourteenth Street and Columbia Road, Northwest, Washington, D. C., ranks well among the motion picture houses of the national capital, both as to attractiveness and the provisions made for the comfort of its patrons. It is wholly detached, and the front and side walls are of tapestry brick. The building was designed by B. Stanley Simmons, one of the foremost architects of the city, and represents an investment of $40,000, with an additional $40,000 for the ground upon which it stands. The building is of Colonial style, with the lobby in Carian marble of a delicate green. The walls are of ornamental plaster and paneled. The floor is of Mosaic blocks and marble, with Mosaic blocks forming designs and in the center the letter "S” in a wreath and above a lyre also within a wreath. All doors are full-mirrored, while mirrors stretch across the lobby, giving it an appearance of having twice its real depth. The lobby is forty-five feet wide at the street and has a depth of thirty- four feet. At the north end is the manager’s office, following which is the box office, and at the west end is a closet for storage purposes and another door leading to the stairway which goes into the operators' booth.

The operators' booth is one of the best in the city. It runs the full width of the lobby and has a depth of eleven feet. It is equipped with toilet facilities and is well ventilated, there being a window at each end and there are two vents, eighteen inches in diameter, leading to the roof directly above the two Simplex motor-driven projecting machines, which, with a motor generator and rewinder, are here installed. The projection and lookout openings are provided with slides fitted with fusible cords and act automatically in case of a conflagration. As one enters the auditorium he cannot help but admire it for its attractiveness. It is wider than the lobby, having a width of sixty-five feet, and it is one hundred feet in depth. A feature, new to Washington, was here embodied, for the floor has been laid bowl-shaped and on an incline, the latter being one-eighth inch to the foot. The shaping of the floor from side to side gives those patrons who occupy the seats nearest to the wall an opportunity to look directly over the heads of those occupying the central seats on the aisle and gives an unobstructed view of the screen. Further comfort is insured by the width of thirty-four inches, two inches more than required by law, between the backs of the chairs. The house has a seating capacity of 840, while more than 200 others can find standing room behind the heavy brass rails. The center aisle is also very wide.

From the floor line at the walls a base of imitation marble extends to the belt course. The walls have been left in white with all ornaments brought out in low relief, giving an appearance of daintiness of outline. The ‘wall lines run to the first rib of the ceiling, forming what might be termed a slow half ellipse. Pilasters are placed on each side of a blind window at each side wall, with a delicately moulded cap and a cartouche over the center of each opening. At the ends nearest the screen the walls have been splayed to an angle of sixty degrees and a recess formed therein to give the appearance of private boxes.

These are decorated with fan-shaped ornaments and above the center of each is a cartouche. Above the gold fiber screen is a proscenium cove, ornamented with a large cartouche in the center, as seen in theaters having a stage, although the Savoy is not so equipped. The screen itself is within a shadow box having a bevel extending back fifteen inches to the line of the screen. In the center of the house is a cross aisle six feet in width to an exit on each side. The floor is of cement, having a hardened top layer, preventing it from chipping. The ornamented walls and paneled ceilings of both the auditorium and lobby are in what might be termed a modified Renaissance. In the center of the ceiling of the auditorium is an ornamental plaster centerpiece, elliptical in shape, with a black blind vent in the center serving to break the surrounding dead white, and a circle of forty-s?x Mazda forty- watt lights with frosted globes. In each of the four surrounding panels are similar lamps of one-hundred-watt power. On each of the twelve pilasters along the walls is a bracket of composition, done in gold leaf, and lacquered in imitation of statuary bronze, holding five candles with frosted pear- shaped globes. Similar lights have been placed in the lobby which is also equipped with three chain-hung fixtures, which are both elaborate and yery expensive.

The heating and ventilating system is of the best. The former is what is known as the Plenum direct-indirect system. During the winter months the building is heated prior to being opened for an entertainment by direct radiation, after which this heat is turned off and the indirect service is brought into play. This is accomplished by blowing the heated air into the theater from the rear of the screen wall over a heating coil through the registers above each of the two rear exits. The fan is a belt-connected Sturtevant, capable of distributing 30,000 cubic feet of heated pure air per minute. The same fan is used for sending in a like amount of cooled air in the summer months. The radiators are concealed in the walls. The vitiated air is drawn out from -the theater at the front floor line through registers on each side by an exhaust fan at the rate of 24,000 cubic feet per minute and carried through the roof. The fan is located in- the operators' booth. The piping of the house is what is known as the overhead or drop system, the main flow pipe being above the ceiling of the auditorium and from this pipes drop to the radiators at the floor line. The return or condensation pipe runs under the flooring to the boiler at the rear.

At the rear of the house is a park capable of accommodating nearly 900 patrons seated and in addition there is standing room for 300 more. Entrance is had to the park from the north side of the theater through an entrance fourteen feet in width. The flooring of the park, first made with a fill of clay and then covered with two layers of crushed limestone, is curved and inclined similar t6 the theater itself. The limestone surface has proven to be exceptionally satisfactory and superior to gravel, which is usually used, in that it presents a harder surface and there are not the footprints to be rolled out after each performance, nor does it cause the soiling of white shoes or dresses. The Savoy theater and Savoy Park are controlled by a theater company of the same title, of which J. M. Swanson is the treasurer, A. G. Swanson is the vice-president, and M. B. Swanson is the secretary and treasurer. The house was first opened to the public on February 1, 1914. The projection is excellent, and, aside from the general appearance of cleanliness for which the house is noted, a great deal might be said of the music furnished by the five-piece orchestra. The general admission to the Savoy is ten cents, although up to twenty-five cents has been readily obtained on a number of especially popular films. Its patronage includes the residents of the finest part of the Hill district and it has enjoyed a very satisfactory business from the time of opening".

MotherButter on February 4, 2010 at 1:48 pm

did the roof the Savoy Theater, Washington, DC collapse after a snow storm – in the earlier years of the theater?

Silicon Sam
Silicon Sam on July 17, 2010 at 1:41 am

I think you are thinking of the Ambassador, which was called the Knickerbocker when the roof collapsed in 1922. Killed 98 people. Rebuilt and call the Ambassador after that.

Tinseltoes on August 14, 2012 at 9:16 am

Described in this 1915 trade article: archive

Tinseltoes on August 15, 2012 at 9:18 am

Described again in 1916: archive

Mike_Blakemore on April 22, 2013 at 7:57 am

I have loaded two pictures. I must thank Ken Roe in solving the mystery of where they are of…. :o)

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