Photographs & History

Photographs and History

Relic Exhibition: Lansdowne Theater

Auditorium Detail, Northeast Corner, Lansdowne Theater. May 2009

Auditorium Detail, Northeast Corner, Lansdowne Theater. May 2009

In conjunction with the current exhibition of work from the Relic Project I would like to share some history about the buildings featured in the show. The fifth and final building in the Relic exhibition is the beautiful Lansdowne Theater. This Theater opened it’s doors on June 1st, 1927 just two years before the Great Depression and continued to operate for over 60 years. Situated in the heart of the downtown business area of this Philadelphia commuter suburb the theater survives as one of the most prominent structures on North Lansdowne Avenue. Financed by the Stanley Warner Company and Herbert Effinger who commissioned renowned theater architect W. H. Lee to design a modern 1300 seat theater, the $250,000 project resulted in a grand, lavish theater featuring remarkable interiors clad with chandeliers and intricate tile plasterwork throughout. The theater featured an organ, built by the W.W. Kimball Company of Chicago to provide both music and sound effects prior to the introduction of sound movies. Situated in the front of the auditorium in the orchestra pit the “band” organ also controlled a variety of instruments and sound effects for silent films in the false balconies on both sides of the stage. According to the Lansdowne Theater Corporation the organ originally fell silent by 1937 and was later restored by local volunteers which provided a unique venue for professional organists to perform in the historic theater, a tradition that continued until the removal of the organ in the late 1970s

Into the early 1980’s ownership changed hands and Lansdowne Theater Associates, Inc cosmetically restored the building after purchase in 1986. Shortly after in July of 1987 an electrical fire broke out during a movie, fortunately nobody was hurt but the electrical systems that served the theater suffered major damage. While repairs were started the group was never successful in getting the building back to operating condition and the property eventually defaulted to bank ownership. Today the building’s retail spaces have been renovated and provide income revenue for the site while the non-profit Historic Lansdowne Theater Corporation works tirelessly to secure funding and make efforts to stabilize and restore the theater back to it’s original operating condition.

For more information on the Historic Lansdowne Theater Corporation please visit their website.

The exhibition featuring work from the Relic Portfolio is currently on view at the Dr. Ross Beitzel Art Gallery,Gloucester County College. The exhibition runs through November 28, 2012. Gallery hours are Mon.–Fri., 8:00 am–10:00 pm and Saturday, 8:00 am–3:00 pm. For more information contact Eoin Kinnarney, Gallery Director, 856-415-2122.