Lewiston, Maine “Empire” to be Demolished

posted by Ross Melnick on April 15, 2005 at 7:12 am

LEWISTON, ME — According to the Press Herald, the 102-year-old Empire Theatre will be demolished this spring to make room for a parking lot. This once rampant demolition practice for parking spaces had subsided in recent years and it is surprising to see such an old theater, of an increasingly rare vintage, going down without much notice from the community or preservation groups.

Are there any Maine/New England Cinema Treasures members out there who can shed light on this?

(Thanks to John Elwood for notifying us about this story.)

Comments (18)

teecee on April 15, 2005 at 8:21 am

take a look at this old postcard.

View link
would be a shame to lose it.

teecee on April 15, 2005 at 8:35 am

nice old photo & history:
View link

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on April 15, 2005 at 9:12 am

the second one says it’s from Hampton Beach, NH — not Lewiston, Maine

David Wodeyla
David Wodeyla on April 15, 2005 at 9:36 am

Anyone from the area should make an effort to take some photos, inside and out, before it’s gone. So often, people don’t think about pictures until the place is gone.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on April 15, 2005 at 10:25 am

Here’s another old postcard showing the Empire, slightly different from the first one posted by TC.

hollister22nh on April 15, 2005 at 9:28 pm

This shows the Empire in 2002, completely shorn of its facade…


This same website about Lewiston laments that “Lewiston, Maine wasn’t always the crack-infested welfare town that it is today. ”

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on April 15, 2005 at 9:40 pm

Anyone know if the old façade is still intact behind that false front?

Broan on April 15, 2005 at 9:48 pm

I don’t see how it could be. You can kind of see where the old elements were attached. But it doesn’t appear to be a false front- look in the upper left corner. I think it’s all brick, with the ornament literally shorn off. Shameful.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on April 16, 2005 at 6:00 am

I know nothing about Lewiston, but I bet people would be making a lot bigger fuss if the Empire’s façade still looked like the photo on the left. What’s the interior like these days?

Patsy on April 17, 2005 at 12:32 pm

Great questions and I hope we get some answers! Dwodeyla: Someone should take some photos before it’s too late! And I can’t believe the before and after photos of this once great theatre!

Patsy on April 17, 2005 at 4:11 pm

Behind the front facade of today is there anything worth saving? To compare ‘what was then’ and ‘what is now’ one would think it isn’t the same building? Windows are gone or covered up and marquee is certainly gone! Hope a local can tell us more and can take interior photos, but one must contact the owner of the building to get inside!

Hinkley00 on April 27, 2005 at 9:14 am

I work in Lewiston, and drive by the theatre often. I never thought much of the building because they had stripped the facade and it had been vacant for 20 years. I had assumed that it had also been stripped inside, but still I always wanted to see it.
Last monday, a co-worker was walking by and the doors were open because of the demolition. So he snuck in to take a look and he said that it was simply beautiful. The red velvet seats were still there, the hardwood floors, the balcony high above the grand stage with the curtains even. It was all there! He said you could even see the ticket booth and the great big doors that led into the theatre. That was last Monday, 4/18. Today it’s nothing but a skeleton. I missed it, I could cry! If I’d only known. By the end of the weekend, it will be gone. It’s so sad that people don’t realize that they’re throwing history away for a parking lot! When it’s gone, it’s gone.

http://www.sunjournal.com/pdfs/index.php (click on the front page)

Hinkley00 on April 29, 2005 at 7:51 am

Sorry, the link I provided changes daily. You’ll need to select the April 27th’s paper. You can still use the link provided.

startheresa on August 10, 2005 at 7:32 am

Update 8-10-05. This building, not far from the Gov. Longley bridge over the Androscoggin River, and next to the old CMP lot, is down and the bricks are being carted away (wish I could get one). For a few recent seasons an animated fellow sold tee-shirts from his car parked next to this building. Before that, a church held its services inside. Then, long ago now, around 1970, I watched my first movies there, “Dumbo” and “Sleeping Beauty,” and have been enchanted by movie theaters ever since. I also saw my first sci-fi film there, about a human-ant queen, and (despite that B-movie’s influence) got hooked on sci-fi movies. What a treasure, lost. But the good memories live on! For a brief building note, check out the pdf brochure or view in html, at www.ci.lewiston.me.us/files/pdf/tourbrochure.pdf

rockstarwwe on October 21, 2006 at 3:20 pm

I have been to the Empire theater.My Mother use to bring me there when i was a kid in the mid 70s.I remember seeing scary movies there.It was very dark in there.But i remember looking around the theater it was an old style theater.When i was there as a little boy i new when i was looking around that there was a lot of history in there.And i remember the long line of people waiting to get in to see a movie.times have change for our entertainment.In the late 70s& 80s when cable TV came to lewiston entertainment was watch at home.

rockstarwwe on October 21, 2006 at 3:30 pm

I can not beleave they tore it down with all the history the empire theater has and it’s on the historical site list too!I wounder if it was tore down because it was'nt safe?Or it’s because no one cared about it any more?I got some old pictures and a picture of whats left.It’s just a emty lot now.I will post them soon.

rockstarwwe on October 26, 2006 at 5:14 pm

here’s a few picture’s I found and one i took is what’s left of the Empire theater View link

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on August 6, 2010 at 6:03 pm

BethanyH,Have had the same thing happen to me.You want to haul it home but just can’t do it.I have taken some stuff,in fact quite a bit over the years,but always had to leave something behind,that today is in the dump.

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