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James V. Roy | profile | all galleries >> Merrimack Valley Theaters >> Lawrence Theaters >> The Colonial Theatre tree view | thumbnails | slideshow

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The Colonial Theatre

The Colonial Theatre at 12 Hampshire Street was designed by local architect George G. Adams and built in 1904. Adams also designed the Bay State Building among others. According to the book, Lawrence, Massachusetts: Images of America by Ertha Dengler, it was built by the Sweeney Brothers of Lawrence "as a showcase for the best in professional talent. Situated on the northwest corner of Hampshire and Methuen Streets, its five stories contained stores in the front portion of the first floor and a rooming house above. The immense stage section occupied the rear. Chaplin once played here in person, as did Lillian Russell and a legion of comedians, magicians, singers, dancers, orchestras, and stock companies from around the world."

Cahn's guide in 1904 listed the theater on the ground floor with a seating capacity at 696 and a proscenium opening on the stage at 35' wide by 30' high. Prices ranged from 15 to 50 cents. It was managed by Weber & Rush.

According to Americanizing the movies and "movie-mad" audiences, 1910-1914 by Richard Abel, at least as early as February of 1913 it began showing feature films when the Lawrence Eagle promoted the weeklong run of "Paul Rainey's African Hunt" at the Colonial, billed as this "Darkest African Motion Picture" with a full page of pictures and text.
In 1913 the "Report of the Chief of the Massachusetts District Police" listed the Colonial Theatre licensed to the Colonial Theater Company but by 1914 it was run by Toomey and Demara of the Empire Theatre. In 1918 it was listed as run by Charles H. Emerson of the Emerson Company who also was running the Opera House in Lowell and Academy of Music in Haverhill that year and several years earlier but by 1919 was again run by Toomey and Demara.

In 1921, according to the Tribune, the Colonial offered matinees "every day except Mondays and an extra added attraction was a $25 suit of clothes offered as a special prize to the holder of the lucky ticket."

By 1927, the only theater listed in the City's business directory under the category of "Theatre" and not "Motion Picture Theater" was the Empire and the same year listed the Empire Amusement Company also at 12 Hampshire St., the same address as the Colonial. The Colonial operated until 1933 and the building some years after that. By the late 1960s and early 1970s the location was occupied by a single storied structure, possibly the first floor of the original building, that housed the infamous "Chez When" strip club.

CinemaTreasures.org ID: 32129
The Colonial Theatre
The Colonial Theatre
View of the Colonial and Hampshire St. from Methuen St.
View of the Colonial and Hampshire St. from Methuen St.
View of the Colonial from the corner at Essex St.
View of the Colonial from the corner at Essex St.
Essex and Hampshire Street
Essex and Hampshire Street
Current view of Hampshire St. from Methuen St.
Current view of Hampshire St. from Methuen St.
Current view from the corner at Essex St.
Current view from the corner at Essex St.
current buliding
current buliding
current buliding
current buliding
current buliding
current buliding
current buliding
current buliding