Our third venue visit on 2013′s Conclave Theatre Tour will be to:
82 Fourth Street, Troy, N.Y.
ARCHITECT: Arlard W. Johnson
CAPACITY: 2,287 (original)
Today’s Proctor’s Theater in Troy is not as fortunate as its Schenectady namesake, but it is well on its way to a return to glory.
In 1914, F.F. Proctor built the Troy showplace for the kingly sum of $325,000 and was originally named “Proctor’s Fourth Street” to avoid confusion with Proctor’s other theaters in that city. Proctor, who had already built and operated several successful vaudeville theaters in Albany and New York City, hired Arlard Johnson to design the theater, and succeeded in creating his grandest venue since entering the theatrical business nearly three decades before. It was praised as “a structure ranking foremost in American theatrical circles.”
A highly decorative front facade of brick and marble covered in glazed terra-cotta distinguishes the five-story building. On the ground level, rusticated columns rise up to lions’ heads. Five engaged marble columns frame the upper floors, rising to gargoyle-like figures and two towers rise above the roofline at either end of the facade.
Though its interior was ornate, the Adamsesque décor resembled more a late 19th Century opera house than the exotic and extravagant movie palaces of the twenties. Still, its towering proscenium arch was framed by gilded plasterwork, and imported crystal chandeliers hung in the lobby and over the auditorium. Boasting two balconies, the theater is unique in that there are no stairs leading to the upper levels. Patrons negotiate a series of ramps to access the balconies.
The theater billed as “Troy’s Largest Amusement Palace,” was originally home to touring vaudeville productions. It premiered an early film in 1914, Mother’s Penitent, starring Baby Early. In 1917 Fred and Adele Astaire performed what was billed as “new song and distinctive dance,” on Proctor’s stage. By the late twenties, it was used primarily as a movie palace.
The theater performed well through the sixities, but by the early seventies it had turned to adult features. By the mid-seventies it was back to Hollywood fare but was taken by the City of Troy in 1977 in lieu of back taxes and was closed.
Over the years, many groups have tried to gain control of the building to restore and redevelop the property, none of which have been successful. Finally in late 2011, Columbia Development Companies acquired the building with the help of a $14.4 million public-private project grant (including $3.3 million from the Restore New York Communities Initiative) and launched the restoration. Work began on the office and retail portion of the building.
Today, the restoration work continues to move forward. The theater is still a work in progress and access will be limited to selected areas. However, THS feels that this emerging project is certainly worthy of our attention as a Conclave destination as our presence will generate much needed publicity for the efforts. We ask that our attendees exercise due caution and enjoy this rare opportunity for a “hard hat” tour of the next great New York State rehabilitation project.
WHY ARE WE SEEING IT?
An endangered movie palace, which is listed on the National Register. Derelict but under reclamation. Our visit will assist the preservation group’s efforts to garner attention and support for this project.
Register for the 2013 Conclave Theatre Tour online.
(Portions of the above text are courtesy of Don Rittner and Brian Krefft.)
Photographer (and THS Member) Matt Lambros visited Proctor’s Theater last year and documented the current state of the building. Make sure you visit afterthefinalcurtain.net to see what he found.
Follow his work on facebook here.