Our eleventh venue visit on 2013′s Conclave Theatre Tour will be to:
111 South Street, Pittsfield, MA
OPENED: September 28, 1903
ARCHITECT: J.B McElfatrick, Joseph McArthur Vance
(lobby and exterior)
The beautiful Colonial Theatre’s design was an exact copy of the Empire Theatre in North Adams, owned by the same people who built the Colonial (the Empire burned down in 1912). It was built to house drama and musical comedy. Later, all sorts of live entertainment including vaudeville, drama, musical comedy, and minstrel shows were added to the mix. The Colonial originally cost $70,000 and was completed in five months. The horseshoe-shaped auditorium once accommodated approximately 1,200 customers. The Colonial is an intimate house, with the distance from the stage to the furthest seats only seventy feet.
Among the performers who graced its stage are Ethel Barrymore, Blackstone the Magician, Grace George, Edward Southern, William Gillette, Sarah Bernhardt, Maude Adams, Billie Burke, Mrs. Fiske, Harry Lauder, Fritz Kreisler, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Pavlova, Will Rogers, Buster Keaton, George M. Cohan, Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne, Helen Hayes, Lew Docksteader’s Minstrels, and Ruth St. Denis.
After shuttering during the Depression, the Colonial was converted to movies in 1937. It closed again in the late forties and in 1952 the theatre was shuttered. Plans were made for demolition but George Miller bought the theatre for his art supply business. The auditorium floor was leveled and a dropped ceiling was installed.
Hillary Clinton visited the Colonial in 1998 as part of her “Save America’s Treasure’s” tour and stated, “You have a national treasure—it’s worth fighting for.” And in 2001, the city bought the theatre. The following year, the city commissioned a study on the potential economic benefits of restoring the theatre. $21 million dollars were raised for the theatre’s renovation, which was undertaken by Martinez & Johnson, and on August 29, 2006 the theatre reopened with the musical Rent.
WHY ARE WE SEEING IT?
Stunningly restored, successfully operational, and it’s 110 years old!
LAST DAY TO REGISTER ONLINE FOR CONCLAVE IS TODAY WEDNESDAY, JUNE 5th!
(Images in gallery courtesy the Berkshire Theatre Group.)