Next week 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.
If you’re not joining us, make sure to check out our daily recaps here on the blog. You don’t have to be with us to see inside of Pittsburgh’s theatres!
Find out more about one of our stops, the New Granada Theatre in Pittsburgh, PA.
NEW GRANADA THEATRE
2007 Centre Ave
OPENED: March 25, 1928
ARCHITECT: Louis A.S. Bellinger
CAPACITY: 1,500 (original)
The New Granada Theatre was originally built in 1927 as the Pythian Temple, by Pittsburgh’s first African-American architect, Louis A.S. Bellinger.
The Pythian Temple was constructed as a Grand Lodge for the Knights of Pythias, a national fraternal organization dedicated to “friendship, charity and benevolence.”
On March 12, 1927, the Pittsburgh Courier released the details of the project after an interview with Bellinger. “The second floor will furnish the city with a long-felt want. This floor will contain an auditorium with a gallery, ladies and gentlemen’s lounging rooms, miniature stage with modern footlights, suitable for amateur productions and musical concerts. The auditorium has been so arranged that the floor can be easily converted into a basketball court, with a clear 20-foot floor space of 6,000 square feet. Seating accommodations for 1,500 people have been arranged. The auditorium will be decorated in classical style, with myriad lights, finished walls, box seats, hardwood floor and a new innovation in seating arrangement. Entrance to the gallery will be through a fireproof foyer. Several modern office suites will complete this floor.”
On May 20, 1937, the Pythian Temple re-opened as the New Granada Theater in the form of a movie theater and concert hall. It is highly regarded as a historic African American cultural place in where music greats including Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald, Lena Horne, Billy Eckstein and Cab Calloway had graced the stage both in person and on film.
In 2010, a stabilization project was completed on the New Granada Theatre. This project involved masonry restoration, roof replacement and marquee storage. Potential reuse ideas include a performance area, a visual arts center, a museum, retail and office space and a community gathering space. Community input and the results of a market study and cultural study will help to shape the future of the New Granada Theater.
History courtesy The Hill Community Development Corporation, hilldistrict.org. Images from the Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, [reproduction number, 222978pu & 222979pu].