Monday, August 27, 2012

Palace Theater, 100 East Main Street, Waterbury, CT

Photo from

Capacity 3600[11]

Designed by period architect Thomas Lamb, in what is described as a Renaissance Revival style, the Palace Theater featured an eclectic mix of Greek, Roman, Arabic and Federal motifs and boasted grand lobby spaces, and ornate dome ceilings, in a palatial setting fit for a king - but intended for the people of Waterbury.
The Palace Theater officially opened its doors in January of 1922.

The Palace Theater officially opened its doors in January of 1922.

The general tone of the entire main ceiling is carried out in warm gray tones and the various moldings forming the panels are executed in harmonizing tones of the same color. All of the plain surfaces in the main ceiling are in gold leaf and the ornamental plaster relief work, picked out in white, gold and sepia tints. The plaster panels are treated in the same manner and the medallions in the ceiling are treated to bring out the rich cameo effect. The vaulted spandrels over the proscenium box arches are made with a solid background and are identical in effect with the Poli’s Capitol, Hartford, prior to this rated as the most artistic effect yet, in theatrical decorations. The entire underside of the balcony is made in the same manner as the ceiling with respect to the paths, color harmonizing tones etc. 
The first mezzanine promedade ceilings, the ceiling also of the vomitoriums, stair halls, stairs and passages to the boxes are likely treated on a par with a the main ceiling and the plaster walls are treated the same as the auditorium. All the woodwork for the proscenium boxes, the inside fascias of the orchestra boxes rails and all the wood trim in both tiers of boxes is finished in harmonizing grey.

The ornamented architrave around the proscenium arch, the figure panel at the key of the proscenium arch and the proscenium arch wainscot panels carry out the decorative scheme of the main ceiling especially in reference to the medallions thereon.
The outer lobby and grand lobby ceilings are treated with strong variegated color and gold in all the panels, the combination of ivory black and gold being mostly of the Pompelian style.  In the outer and grand lobby all of the panels, cornices, caps, beams etc. are carried out in the same decorative scheme in relation likewise to mouldings and ornaments.
The ladies rest rooms on the orchestra and mezzanine floors are finished in old ivory with a novel silver decoration and the wall panels are covered with genuine silk brocade. The first mezzanine doors are birch finished in the natural wood with a varnished surface. 
All of the fire escapes, railings, doors, skylights, window frames, marquise, water tank frames, fire escape, canopies, ladders etc. are finished harmonizing colors and the wrought iron door frames and cornices are executed in a dull bronze to match the metal doors.
All of the exposed pipes in basement under the stage house and dressing room section, boiler room, coal storage room and basement are asbestos covered, as well painted with three coats.

The draperies, hangings, curtains and valances for the Poli Palace exactly conform to those at Poli’s Capitol in Hartford.  The velour act curtain revels tinted leather appliqué, fringed edge and tassels. Over the proscenium are valances, box pleated with appliqué edging and fringe.  The orchestra railing has a velour shirred curtain lined with mercerized satin and the valances and drapes of a similar order are found in the two entrances with five pairs of velour drapes with casement lining for the exits on the lower floor.
For the large opening in the balcony entrance there are velour valances and drapes and there are mounted valances and drapes for the entrance to the ladies room on the lower floor.  The same velour effect is carried out for the two openings on either side of the large balcony entrance and the large opening leading to the ladies rest room in the balcony.  There are velour valances and drapes for the six circle-head mirrored windows in the grand lobby and foyer and six valances for the display cases in the front lobby.
For the five entrance doors to the grand lobby there are silk curtains and for the windows in the rest room and in the rear of the lower floor. Silk valances and drapes give an artistic effect to the box office.  These draperies were installed by the L.A. Kichler Co. of Cleveland O.

The motion picture operating room is to a theater what the engine room is to a ship—the works.
Mr. Poli is almost a fanatic on the subject of projection for he realizes that in this day the big sign of progressiveness on the part of the manager of a playhouse who desires to give the greatest pleasure to his picture patrons is perfect projection.
The projection room at the Poli Palace is divided into three parts – reviewing room, where the rewinding of film and the inspection of the same is made; the rheostat and the switchboard room where in is located the rheostat and electrical apparatus for the control of the board and the motion picture booth proper. In addition there is a rest room with conveniences for the operators. Incidentally the entire projection room is out of the building proper.
In the operating room are many ingenious devices for the first time in any theater.  The equipment of the booth consists of three special projectors.  High speed revolving shutters eliminate flicker.  Special focusing devices and projection lenses and condensers built especially for this theater, project a picture free from unevenness of focus and other distortions prevalent when the customary stock lens is used.
Realizing that the surface upon which the picture is to be projected is of paramount importance, a special screen was developed after considerable experimenting and close observation from large screens placed in a position to scale and under the same conditions that will prevail at the Palace. The distance from the screen to the operating room being so great in the Palace it was deemed advisable to install a system of lenses so that the operator could see instantly if the picture is sharply focused.  Such a device has been permanently placed in the front wall of the booth and by looking thru this, the operator sees a magnificent image of the picture.
The motion picture machines were installed by Chief Electrician James Leverone of the Poli circuit. 



As Published In The Waterbury Republican -  January 28, 1922 

The immense pipe organ in the Palace was built by the Hall Organ Company of Stamford, Connecticut, one of the largest manufacturers of high grade pipe organs in the country, and the instrument contains many unique features introduced and perfected by this company.

The entire organ is controlled at the console, in the orchestra pit, by thousands of electric wires, leading to the various units of the instrument, which are distributed in chambers on both sides of the proscenium arch.
An organ is a complicated instrument and the average person does not realize that in its makeup there are literally thousands of mechanical appliances which must be used to guide the paths that are the tonal results, that are the ultimate object in building an organ. To build an organ of this size requires about six months.
It is usually thought that the organ consists of the key-desk and the few pipes that show in the front, with probably a few more pipes in the back of the case.  In this organ there are over 1700 pipes, every one of which will sound a different tone. None of the pipes would be any value without the mechanism used to make them speak their tones.
This mechanism consists of miles of wire, hundreds of magnets, thousands of pneumatics, all of which are used to obtain the fine tones from the pipes.
This organ has four separate sections or more properly speaking, there are four different organs, any of which may be used alone, and when combined may be blended into one complete mass of tone.  The sections are as follows:  The Swell Organ, played from the upper set of keys, The Great Organ, played from the second set of keys, The Orchestral Organ, played from the third set, and finally the Pedal Organ, played with the feet upon the pedal keys.
These four organs are assembled in four separate swell boxes so named because the tone “swells” out, when the balanced shutters in the front of the boxes are opened by means of the pedal shoes, under the control of the organist.

What is called the most perfect method of fighting a fire is that which will operate as soon as a fire starts, will pour water on the heart of the fire and give the alarm at the same time.  That is just what the sprinkler system at the Poli Palace will do and Mr. Poli has refrained from depending solely on fire resistive construction to prevent the spread of fire that might occur, depending greatly upon the fire fighting activity of automatic sprinklers.  Strictly speaking there is no such thing as absolute fire presentation and there never can as long as the human element enters into the care and maintenance of a building. The purpose of those who know best on this subject is to supply a means to extinguish immediately upon its inception.
It is a statement of absolute fact that there never has been a single loss of life by fire or panic in any building equipped with a proper system of automatic sprinklers.
The sprinkling system was installed by the M. J. Daly and company of this city and so perfectly is the equipment arranged that should a fire occur on the stage, dressing rooms, engine room, in the scenery lofts or elsewhere the automatic sprinklers will immediately open and pour water on the fire under pressure and prevent the fire from assuming unusual proportions at the same time issuing an alarm by means of the ringing of large gong but what is more important the alarm is immediately received at the fire department headquarters.
Incidentally in the matter of safety of patrons it might be mentioned that there are twelve direct exits from the balcony and auditorium exclusive of the eight doors in the grand lobby.
The entire building is of reinforced concrete and steel with the floor of the auditorium of wood over reinforced concrete.  The wood making it easy on the feet and more comfortable.  Stand pipes with one hundred feet of hose are located on both sides of the stage, in the fly galleries, at the sides and rear of the main and mezzanine floor.  There is a sprinkler system in all dressing rooms, rooms under the stage, coal storage room, rook under the fly galleries, under the entire grid iron, paint bridge, entire stage and roof.  There is a sprinkler system over the proscenium arch and a water curtain directly in front of the asbestos curtain.  On the roof there is a 15,000 gallon tank of water thirty feet above the roof and 100 feet from the ground.  In a word, the entire theater can be flooded in an instant.  Likewise in every part of the theater proper, front and back there are fire appliances of every modern kind to conform with the law despite the 100 percent safety methods installed by Mr. Poli himself.
Sylvester Z. Poli is the sole owner of the Palace and his managing director is Pat F. Luddy.  The assistant manager is Frank D. Barberi and the treasure is Harry Parsons.
In its heyday, stars of vaudeville, stage and screen made personal appearances.  The likes of Eddie Cantor, Rudolph Valentino, the Glenn Miller Orchestra, Frank Sinatra, Jackie Gleason, the Andrew Sisters, Tommy Dorsey and Tony Bennett  were some of the greats who performed in front of packed houses.(2)

It became the Loew’s Poli  in a corporate merger with Loew’s, and was the premier movie house in a city that boasted small theaters in most neighborhoods.
Meriden Record, December 14, 1939, page 8.

By the 1960s the neighborhood theaters were slowly closing and the Poli, as it had come to be known, was also beginning to show its age. While still the grande dame of the city’s theaters, the plush seats and luxurious carpets were becoming threadbare, and the stone and marble lobbies were dull from years of neglect.  The structure itself was in dire need of repair. Dressing rooms didn’t need showers:  the leaky roof provided plenty of water in a storm.  Heating and cooling systems were unreliable at best.(1)

On February 27, 1972, YES set the stage curtain on fire!

Experience is like an old timey theater. Ushers dressed in red vests and black pants.
The dual marble staircases beckoning you in... the rich red carpet... the gold leaf.. you have to experience it to believe its beauty.

Queen actually first performed their Bohemian Rhapsody for the first time in North America in Waterbury, Ct., on the Palace Theater stage.(1)

Tony Bennett has the dual distinction of being both the last act to play the Palace stage before it closed at the end of this concert phase in 1987. He then was the artist who had the distinct privilege of being the first act to play in the acoustically near- perfect venue when it reopened in 2004, after undergoing a $30 million restoration.(1)

Out of the sight of the public, usually on the walls surrounding the dressing room areas, traveling shows leave their mark in the form of wonderfully decorated, colorful murals. All are hand painted  and all are signed by the shows performers and staff.(3)

There once was a stream running beneath the historic Palace Theatre in Waterbury, Connecticut. In 2003, excavation for the renovation of the theatre required the brook to be completely rerouted! A specially engineered culvert was designed to implement this ambitious plan, and in late 2004 audiences gathered where fishes once swam.

These images are magnificent:

Jerry performed here on
9/23/72 Grateful Dead
Twenty one beat intro to Beat It On Down the Line.
"The only major problem at the concert was the overcrowding, some fans said.
Larry Wilson, advertising head from Cable Music, termed the concert “a definite success.” He said the Dead just came from Philadelphia and seemed to draw the crowd with them to Waterbury.
Wilson added that the “kids seemed to know where they will be before I do.”
Approximately 2,500 people were waiting outside the theater at 5:45 p.m., two hours before opening. The young people came from Massachusetts, Vermont, New York and New Jersey. One individual said, “We drove 500 miles for this, believe it or not, all the way from Virginia.” He said he had been waiting in line since noon.
Police said the crowd was “very cooperative.”
When the doors to the theater finally opened, the thousands of waiting young people charged down the aisles to the front of the theater.
“It’s a stampede,” an individual exclaimed.
Approximately 40 people already seated in the front felt they narrowly escaped being crushed.
The music, however, was well worth waiting for. The group played for two hours without a break, then after a half-hour rest, played past press time."[13]

At the start of the second set, Weir warns them, "You folks down there in the orchestra pit had best get out...that thing you're standing on is the last word in temporary." Garcia adds, "They're gonna drop the orchestra in, through the cleverly concealed trap door in the ceiling!"[14]

""We were in the hotel room listening to our tape, when there was a knock at the door and Owsley barged in. He ran over to the tape machine - 'You cannot record the shows!' And he took the tape out of the machine and barged out of the room."
Rob Bertrando, at Santa Barbara 5/25/74: "My machine & tapes were confiscated, so no good tapes remain of that show. Ramrod came off the stage, ran to the mikes, and held a knife to the cables saying, 'Turn over the equipment or I cut your cords."[5]

"The Dead's roadies, men of much muscle, enjoyed themselves cracking skulls, stealing tapes, cutting microphone cables, and so on... In Waterbury, Conn., in September of 1972, we were hanging out in our room at the local Holiday Inn, where the Dead were also staying. We were listening, of course, to Dead tapes. Bear was roaming down the hall, when he heard the strains of music. He steamrollered his way in, made off with a set of tapes, informed us that we would never get away with taping, told us that we'd be stopped, and let us know that our tapes were shit anyway compared to his!"[6]

"One of the Dead's roadies slipped a dose of acid into my Pepsi. "I was really upset by it," he says."[7]

9/24/72 Grateful Dead
6/7/73 Old And In The Way
Jerry plays a RB-250 Gibson Mastertone banjo.[9]

4/1/76 Jerry Garcia Band
Promoter Jim Koplick and Shelley Finkel in association with WPLR.
Jerry plays a Travis Bean 1000A #51 guitar.[8][12]

Jerry Garcia Band
Promoter Cross Country Presents.
Jerry plays the guitar Wolf.
"The Jerry Garcia Band packed the decrepit Palace Theater on the eve of Turkey Day, again displaying that the secret to the Dead's perennial success lies in the experience of a live performance. Upon arrival in Connecticut on Wednesday, Mr. Garcia was rather ill, according to several close friends of the attending physician. If so, his stylize, lengthy, self-sustained compositions suffered only an occasional faux pas, when complexity escaped clear enunciation. His band may not have missed a note all night."[10]
"The security for the Jerry show from '77 was an outlaw motorcycle gang."[4]

Palace Theater, Waterbury, CT
1.)^Cichetti, Carolyn, All Things New England,
4.)^Wise, Jim, comments,
5.)^Kippel, Les, Light Into Ashes, 2010-07-02,
7.)^Koplik, Jim, Danton, Eric R., 2009-04-23, Fond Memories Of The Dead,
8.)^Wright, Tom, Garcia musical instrument historian, 2014-02-23, email to author.
9.)^Schoepf, Frank, 2014-04-16, email to author.
10.)^In Concert, Jerry Garcia Band, 1977, Unknown newspaper.
11.)^Box Office Statement, 1976-04-01, Joseph Jupille Archives.
12.)^Anderson, James R., 1977-04-01.
13.)^London, Michael, Rock Fans Jam Theater To Cheer Grateful Dead, Waterbury Sunday Republican, 1972-09-24, September 23, 1972: Palace Theater, Waterbury CT, 2013-11-03, Grateful ead Sources,
14.)^Light Into Ashes, comments, 2013-11-03, September 23, 1972: Palace Theater, Waterbury CT, 2013-11-03, Grateful ead Sources,


  1. In the 1940's I would see a stage show and a movie. Big bands like Jimmy Dorsey, Louis Prima, Tony Pastor, Cab Calloway, and others would perform. Price of admission? 10 cents!!

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