Sunday, May 6, 2012

Leroy Theater, 66 Broad Street, Pawtucket, RI

Special Thanks to Paul Fernandes at http://www.rirocks.net/Search/leroytheater.htm

Capacity 2445(3)


Pawtucket's "Million Dollar Theater" opened May 1, 1923 to a packed house, with numerous celebrities in attendance. Designed by local architect John F. O'Malley, the theater featured a mirrored lobby, an electric chandelier with 4,700 bulbs, and the largest Wurlitzer organ in New England. A Wurlitzer theater organ opus 587 style “H” was installed in the Leroy Theater on 10/12/1922.(1)

The theater was named for owner Charles T. Payne's son, Leroy, who perished in the first World War.(1)

1938 Special Thanks to Paul Fernandes at http://www.rirocks.net/Search/leroytheater.htm

With the exception of its soaring terra cotta spire, the Leroy featured almost no exterior ornamentation. Originally, only the narrow entrance and ticket booth were exposed to the street. In 1966, the adjacent Payne Building was demolished as part of the Goff Avenue widening project, leaving the theater's bare side wall and the external truss supporting the balcony exposed.(1)
Special Thanks to Paul Fernandes at http://www.rirocks.net/Search/leroytheater.htm

Special Thanks to Paul Fernandes at http://www.rirocks.net/Search/leroytheater.htm


Just in front of the staircase, there was a wall space between it and the huge marble fireplace in the lobby. There was a "maid" in a black dress and white apron who sat in a chair at that wall space, awaiting "customers" visiting the ladies' room.

After the advent of the 'talkies,' the Leroy laid claim to the coveted title of being number one---the best in Pawtucket and one of the largest theatres in all of New England."

Through the 40's the theater was a financial success, but in 1956, the Payne family sold the theater and adjacent Payne and fanning buildings to Associates Realty.(1)

After 55 continuous years as a movie and concert showplace, the Leroy was forced to close in 1978 due to fire code violations. Following several fizzled restoration attempts in the early 1980s and a demolition company citing the project as "too difficult", the Blackstone Valley Ballet took over the theater in 1984. This was short-lived, and in 1985, the building was purchased by Albert J. "Albo" Vitali and played host to boxing, wrestling, and rock concerts. Vitali spent nearly a half million dollars renovating the theater, and it was declared fully restored on December 18, 1986, with Gregg Allman and Dickie Betts of the Allman Brothers the featured act.

A 1987 power failure caused by Twisted Sister's amplifying equipment was reported in a trade magazine, and the Leroy could no longer draw big-name rock acts. The rock promoter was Frank Russo. Even the restoration didn't last; by 1988, Vitali was petitioning the City of Pawtucket for money to fix up the theater. Aid did not come, and following a September 28, 1990 benefit concert by Britt Small and Festival, sponsored by the Rhode Island Vietnam Veterans Motorcycle Club to bring the "Moving Wall" to Rhode Island, the theater unceremoniously closed for good.

The theater sat dormant until 1996, when the entire block was acquired by a Boston developer for the construction of a Walgreen's drugstore. The City's push for economic development was greater than community efforts to save the theater; demolition began September 9, 1997 and took six months to complete. Salvage rights to the building were sold to New England Architectural Center, and most of the interior ornamentation presently resides in their Warwick, RI warehouse. Seats were donated to the Shea High School auditorium and to the Sandra Feinstein Gamm Theater in downtown Pawtucket.(1)

Added to the National Register of Historical Places in 1983
Leroy Theatre ** (added 1983 - Building - #83000181)
66 Broad St., Pawtucket
Historic Significance: Event, Architecture/Engineering
Architect, builder, or engineer: O'Malley,John F.
Architectural Style: Other, Classical Revival
Area of Significance: Architecture, Entertainment/Recreation
Period of Significance: 1900-1924
Owner: Private

Demolished in 1997.



Jerry performed here on
3/11/78 Jerry Garcia Band (billed as "The Mystery Cats")




1.)^Fernandes, Paul, http://www.rirocks.net/Search/leroytheater.htm
3.)^1949 Film Daily Yearbook, 2007-10-2, http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/5639

3 comments:

  1. I believe when the Garcia Band played here on March 11, 1978 they were billed as The Mystery Cats.

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  2. I was at this Jerry Garcia Band show. It was my first time seeing Jerry live. Band members were, Jerry, Keith, Donna, John Kahn, Maria Maldaur, and Buzz Buchanan on drums. Here's the setlist:

    1. How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You) (Marvin Gaye cover)
    2. Catfish John (Johnny Russell cover)
    3. That's What Love Will Make You Do (Little Milton cover)
    4. I'll Take a Melody (Allen Toussaint cover)
    5. The Harder They Come (Jimmy Cliff cover)
    6. Gomorrah
    7. Mystery Train (Little Junior's Blue Flames cover)

    Set 2

    8. Love in the Afternoon
    9. Rhapsody in Red
    10. Knockin' on Heaven's Door (Bob Dylan cover)
    11. Tore Up Over You (Hank Ballard cover)
    12. I'll Be With Thee
    13. Lonesome and a Long Way From Home

    The Leroy was in pretty bad shape at this time. I benefited from that tho because our original seats on the back row of the floor were missing, completely smashed out! The usher gave us new tickets, 10th row just right of center. The show totally rocked with a ripping rendition of Rhapsody in Red. The band was billed as The Mystery Cats because they were promoting the 1978 tour/album Cats Under The Stars.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I've added your comments to the coming Encyclopedia. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete