The Theatre Historical Society of America was founded in 1969 by the late writer and theatre historian Ben M. Hall, author of the first book celebrating America’s movie palaces, The Best Remaining Seats. After Hall’s death dedicated founding members, shepherded by Brother Andrew Corsini Fowler, were instrumental in making THS the foremost organization cataloging and archiving the unique history of theatre architecture in America.
While people are at the heart of THS, our vast archive collections and publications have been our vehicle for growth over the years.
During the early years of THS our collections existed primarily in private homes. Brother Andrew, acting as the first editor of Marquee™, assembled the collection and secured space at Notre Dame University in South Bend Indiana to house the materials. During the 1970s the collections were only accessible by the editor and used to publish our journal. It was the foresight of early members who envisioned an archival research center to serve the public. By the early 1980s Notre Dame needed to recover the space housing the THS archive and the collection was moved to the basement of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Chicago, IL. It was here on North Avenue that volunteers began the massive process of cataloging and organizing thousands of items. By 1986 THS was providing archival research services to a growing number of clients while continuing to grow the collections and expanding its scope. In 1991 THS moved to its present location in the York Theatre building in suburban Chicago.
From just a handful of interested enthusiasts, THS has grown into a national organization with an international membership of individuals, university and public libraries, theatres, performing arts organizations and other interested firms and groups