Winthrop Hall Theatre

570 Columbia Road,
Dorchester, MA 02125

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rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on June 27, 2011 at 10:41 am

In the Google Street View photo above, the bank building with the green trim and the clock on the facade is the location of Winthrop Hall Theatre.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on April 17, 2011 at 11:25 am

Ed- No, not that book, which is a Dover Publ., and which I have. This was a different book, which came out in the 1980s and was very interesting, but when I Xeroxed a few photos from it, I failed to note the title, author, and date published. After copying the photos, I must have sold the book.

EdwardFindlay on April 17, 2011 at 11:18 am

Mr. Salters- is this the book you are referring to? View link

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on April 17, 2011 at 10:59 am

I finally found the “Then and Now” photos I mentioned above. I can’t believe I copied photos from this book and did not record the title and year of the book, which was a treatise on Boston architecture, back “then”, and “now” (1980s?) It has a circa-1910 photo looking across at the big Columbia Square Building with the Winthrop Hall just to its left. The WH was 5 stories high. The theater entrance may have been on the left end of the facade, at the base of the tower. The second photo is the same scene as of 1982 or so. The WH building has been chopped down to 3 stories, containing a bank, behind a new facade. It’s difficult to tell if the buildings next to it are the same ones there when the Uphams Theatre opened in 1941. They may be.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on March 26, 2011 at 11:04 am

Yes, we know from the link to Fred Allen’s autobiography posted above that the Winthrop Hall Theater was showing movies in addition to vaude on stage as of Feb. 1914. And we know from the Anthony LaCamera 1983 article linked to above that he attended movies there as a kid in the 1920s. Plus, the 1927 Film Daily Yearbook listed it as open. So it appears that when the Strand opened across the street in 1918 the Winthrop Hall remained operating for several years.

EdwardFindlay on March 26, 2011 at 4:26 am

Edit- biography didn’t solve anything, was typing something else and didn’t notice it still in there. Biography just giving some information simply that someone worked there 1914-1924 as a projectionist, so it’s clear that they were showing movies into the 20s after the Strand opened.

EdwardFindlay on March 26, 2011 at 4:23 am

Here’s the 1918 business directory, Winthrop Hall Theatre is one of three businesses listed at that address: View link

Another 1918 business directory, this one a gold mine for pre-1920s theatres: View link

And I think we finally have the closing date after all debate!

Mentioned here as showing movies as early as 1914 per the biography of a projectionist: View link

EdwardFindlay on March 26, 2011 at 3:21 am

The 1910 and 1918 maps confirm 570 Columbia to be an address for the Winthop Hall building in addition to 572 Columbia. If it is shown as being at 570 in the 1918 directory when the directory was published is the timeframe for when the bank moved into the Winthrop Hall building as the information in the atlas is probably at least a few months older than the directory.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on March 25, 2011 at 11:35 am

One of the links that Ed Findlay has posted above is to an interesting article written in June 1983 for the Dorchester Argus by Boston Herald TV critic Anthony LaCamera who writes about attending movies as a kid in Dorchester, 1920s- 1930s. He implies that the Winthrop Hall Theater became the Uphams Theater, but that’s not the case. They were 2 different theaters almost in the same location.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on March 25, 2011 at 11:18 am

Yes, sometimes there are many loose ends when one attempts to present facts about a theater 80 years later! My comments above on March 19 are somewhat incorrect when I say that “Still later, it was a bank branch”. The bank came first, before the Uphams Theater, of course. I went back to the 1921 business and street directory. Under “Theatres” it lists the Winthrop Hall Th. at 570 Columbia Road. But when I started going down the street listings for Columbia Road, it had the WH Theatre at # 572. It lists the Strand Garage at 568- Rear; the Dorchester Bank at 570, and the WH Theater at 572. Also in the theater building was the meeting room of the Knights and Ladies of Honor. I think that the bank branch was also there in the 1918 Directory. We know that the ground floor of that building had commercial tenants, and the bank may have been one of them.

EdwardFindlay on March 25, 2011 at 5:48 am

Ron, I was talking about the accounts that I thought were at issue here…by “I’ll gladly stand corrected” I mean better evidence from a link, photograph with date, quote from someone who worked or were a visitor to the theater with exact dates etc.

We have everything needed nailed down about the theater, I think we are arguing over nothing of substance really as we know when it closed(roughly) and when it opened(exact year) and have photos of it active from two angles, and have maps of it- for a theater that closed 82 or 83 years ago it’s history is just about covered well

By the way, if it was a garage that the Uphams would become it is in the 1933 map linked above, possibly the one with the large name scrawled across a garage and the large space next to the building next to the bank building

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on March 24, 2011 at 11:13 am

Ed, I don’t get what you are disagreeing with. You seem to agree with all the info printed above, but you say “I’ll gladly stand corrected…” (about what?) What point have you made that could possibly be corrected? We know the Winthrop Hall Theater was operating with vaudeville and movies, in a building 5-plus stories high. Then in 1918, the Strand opened across the street. The “Winnie” remained open. Then, by 1930, the building was partially torn down and a 2-story bank went into the space. Then in 1941, the Uphams Theater opened. I have seen a photo taken during opening week. To the right is the 2-story Dorchester Savings Bank. Then a long one-story block containing the new theater. Next to the bank is a store called “Vogue”, then next is the Uphams Theatre entrance, and to its left is a drug store named “Sawyers” or something ending in “wyers”.
Someone once told me that he head heard that the Uphams was carved out of a garage, and there was a garage immediately to the rear of this lot.

EdwardFindlay on March 23, 2011 at 10:25 pm

I defer to the first person accounts…but I’ll gladly stand corrected if offered with proof.

Uphams Theater next door to what was the Winthrop Hall building according to this man:

Within is a description: “Others have been torn down; the old site of the Winthrop-Upham’s, for example, is a parking lot adjoining The First American Bank for Savings”. The bank is the post early 70s merger name for the Dorchester Savings Bank that occupied the former Winthrop Hall building.

1910 atlas shows the theater and building being owned by someone named Albright…
1918 shows it still owned by an Albright but the Strand built and owned by “Upham Corner Theatre Company” View link
1933 building is altered, now showing a the bank in the same structure and the Uphams Corner Theater has not yet built.

What I suspect happened is simply this: they made enough money to justify building their own theater nearby hence the connection to the Strand. The presence of showings after that point could be that someone else or the owner of the theater continued to lease the old theater instead of letting it lay fallow…when that no longer worked the owner gutted or sold the building and the bank moved into the former structure.
I’m going with the firsthand claim there, unless proven otherwise. To me it makes sense that the space would be used afterwards in a hot industry that saw many theaters built near or adjacent to their predecessors(Bijou/Keiths/Memorial three that ring a bell). It’s there, there’s a need, make use of it, and when it wasn’t of use renovated out of existence- as was done in downtown and elsewhere.

Another link, this time stating it was a silent movie house and shows another angle of the front including a sign for the building: View link

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on March 23, 2011 at 11:14 am

What I mean Ed is that I have now read 2 descriptions of this property,– both mention the Winthrop Hall building and theater, and both mention the bank later, but for some reason they omit any mention of the Uphams Theater.(it opened around 1941). Regarding the Strand across the street: it opened in 1918; the Winthrop Hall Theater seems to have been still operating in 1927, and the bank opened circa- 1929/1930. The Uphams Theatre in 1941 was not new construction but was carved out of space in the existing structure, and was one story high, with no balcony. You’re right- there definitely was space there for it.

EdwardFindlay on March 22, 2011 at 9:54 pm

I am not understanding what you mean by how the Uphams fits in here…it’s already been confirmed that the building became a bank after renovations and we know that the Strand opened soon after the Winthrop Hall closed, therefore I’ll take their word that the closing and the opening are linked as it is way too coincidental that the two close and open on the same street at the same time.

How the Uphams fits into this to me is simple: it was built next door. Compare/contrast google streetview and satelite shots with the two postcard pictures of the theatre and there is more than enough space to have built the newer of the threee theaters next to the old Winthrop Hall building

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on March 22, 2011 at 11:13 am

That link has some interesting info. Unfortunately, it doesn’t mention the Uphams Theater and where it fits in with all of this. It also implies that the Winthrop Hall Theatre was replaced by the big Strand Th. across the street in 1918. But that doesn’t seem to be the case. The 1927 Film Daily Yearbook lists the Winthrop Hall Theatre as being open 7 days per week and having 500 seats, 9 years after the Strand opened.

TLSLOEWS on March 21, 2011 at 5:14 pm

Thanks for the link Edward.

EdwardFindlay on March 21, 2011 at 4:14 pm A link to some history of the theatre from the Dorchester Anthenaeum…

How about that…another picture and some more info on the building.

By the way look at the bank’s side from streetview, it’s clear that the building’s shell survived but what was in there is long since demolished…

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on March 21, 2011 at 10:54 am

Joe Cifre, who was a theater professional and a Boston theater historian in the mid-20th Century, wrote that the Winthrop Hall Theater was one of the early Boston film venues.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on March 19, 2011 at 12:00 pm

Yes, same bank building. The “Then and Now”– type book had a photo of it in 1982. Unfortunately, the captions of the 2 photos in that book did not mention the Uphams Theatre, only the Winthrop Hall Theater and the bank.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on March 19, 2011 at 11:50 am

Same bank branch as is there today (now Citizens Bank)? Quite a handsome building in its own way.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on March 19, 2011 at 10:48 am

I found reference to the Winthrop Hall, with two photos, in one of those “Then and Now” photo books. Apparently sometime in the 1930s, the building was partially demolished; it was reduced in height from 5-plus stories to one-plus story, gutted out and a totally new facade constructed. Since the theater was an “upstairs house” we can be sure that it did not survive. Later, around 1940, the Uphams Theatre was created in part of this space. Still later, it was a bank branch.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on March 19, 2011 at 12:34 am

Comedian Fred Allen’s memoir, Much Ado About Me, mentions Winthrop Hall in Upham’s corner being an upstairs theater. In 1914, when Allen first appeared on the theatre’s stage as a juggler, Winthrop Hall was presenting nightly shows consisting of a two-reel comedy, a feature picture, and three acts of vaudeville.

Here is a vintage postcard of Uphams Corner, probably from the early 1920s. Winthrop Hall is the red brick building at center, with the gabled roof and stubby corner tower as described above. The style of the building is Romanesque Revival.

The Winthrop Hall Theatre is listed in a 1918 Boston business directory. Winthrop Hall is listed in the 1929 Film Daily Yearbook, but I’ve only got a snippet view so I don’t know if it was listed as closed or not. I haven’t found it mentioned in Boxoffice at all.

EdwardFindlay on March 18, 2011 at 6:27 pm

Address puts it right next door to the Upham Theatre…is it confirmed that they were two separate theaters?