24 days until the Theatre Historical Society of America visits the home of the world’s first Nickelodeon — Pittsburgh, PA — for 2014′s Conclave Theatre Tour. Each day will take you to architecturally significant movie theatres, civic auditoriums, vaudeville houses, or Carnegie Libraries — it’s going to be a great trip, and we can’t wait to share it with you.
Are you coming? We still have a few spots open! Register online today!
Find out more about one of our stops, the Casino Theatre in Vandergrift, PA.
145 Lincoln Avenue
OPENED: June 8, 1900
ARCHITECT: James Allison
CAPACITY: 100 (original) 483 (current)
The Casino Theatre was built in 1900 in the Greek Revival Style. The theatre’s most distinctive and historic feature is its temple front with four Greek Ionic columns. From its opening until 1927, the Casino hosted live entertainment and was a popular stop along the vaudeville circuit. Among its historic visitors during the past century are President William H. Taft, world boxing champion Bob Fitsimmons, composer Hoagy Carmichael, the Lone Ranger, Tex Ritter and the Three Stooges.
In 1927 the Casino was remodeled as the area’s largest movie theater. In the 1950s, the theater was converted to show wide-screen movies to compete with television. The first show was The Robe, a Biblical spectacular.
Many generations of local residents now reminisce about enjoying popcorn and movies at the Casino with friends, school groups, or that special someone. More than a few couples credit holding hands in the balcony of the Casino as the beginning of their long-lasting marriages.
In 1981, with the introduction of modern multiplexes to the area, the Casino could no longer attract sufficient audiences, and the theater closed its doors. A performing arts company briefly presented stage plays in the mid-1980s, but could not find financial success, and the auditorium’s seats were removed and the theater was used for storage space. When the building was threatened with demolition in the late 1980s a community group spearheaded by high school English teacher Eugene Iagnemma organized and volunteered to restore the theater to a showplace for future generations, and also secured it a place on the National Register of Historic Buildings.
In 1992, the group formalized as Casino Theatre Restoration and Management, Inc. (CTRM), a non-profit corporation, and began restoration work. The nationally recognized architectural firm of McLachlan, Cornelius and Filoni, who restored Heinz Hall and the Benedum Center in Pittsburgh, were commissioned by CTRM to draw plans for the restoration.
Today, the Casino Theatre is once again enjoying the reputation and popularity of her heyday. Audiences from throughout the Alle-Kiski valley and beyond have filled the auditorium and enjoyed the wonderful entertainment and the unique atmosphere of a “real theatre” since the doors of the theatre reopened in 1995.
Information submitted by the Casino Theatre for the 2014 Conclave Theatre Tour. Images © Casino Theatre.