Vernon Theatre

1 Kelley Square,
Worcester, MA 01610

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Functions: Office Space

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Vernon Theatre

The building which housed the Vernon Theatre still stands in Kelley Square - a 3-story yellow-brick structure. The ground floor housed the Salty Dog Saloon until recently and is now use for office space.

The Vernon Theatre was an “upstairs house” located up on the second and third floors. It operated as a silent ‘blue collar’ movie theatre from 1916 to 1920. I was one of four silent movie theatres in Worcester at that time, others being the Gem Theatre, Columbus Theatre and the Bijou Theatre. When the Rialto Theatre opened in 1918 on Millbury Street, its ritzier surroundings (and cushioned seats) took business away from these smaller theatres and the Vernon Theatre was the first to close.

The 2-port projection booth is still intact, but most traces of the theatre such as its seats and stage are long gone. The tin ceiling survives as do the places where the chandeliers used to hang. There was an arts group interested in using the space for live events and for film festivals under the name “Vernon Theatre Cinematheque”. A report of their activities appeared in the Worcester Telegram, June 4, 2013, but the scheme never got off the ground.

The building was purchased by Baystate Investment Fund LLC. Edward J. Murphy, a principle of Baystate Investment then in January 2016 obtained a waiver from the Worcester Historical Commission on demolition. His plans are to lower the original theatre windows and convert the second floor, where the theatre was housed, into 10 apartments. Murphy had previously indicated he would be moving into one of the commercial portions of the building and hoped to entice a chain store or bank to take up residence where the Salty Dog Saloon used to be.

Contributed by Ron Salters

Recent comments (view all 2 comments)

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on November 19, 2013 at 2:05 pm

The folks interested in re-using this theater space estimated that it had about 200 seats. There is a possibility that there was a small balcony up in front of the projection booth. The booth is empty but intact. On one wall is an electrical switchboard and the labels are still affixed above the switches: “Stage”, “Piano”, etc.
The Vernon was one of 4 small cinemas in the area. The others were the Columbia, Bijou and Gem. I have heard of the Gem and the Bijou, but not the Vernon and the Columbia. Supposedly, the opening of the Rialto on Millbury Street spelled doom for these 4 houses. I believe that the people running the Bijou went over to the Rialto.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on November 20, 2013 at 1:15 pm

Sometime recently the Vernon Theatre made it into the on-line Worcester business directory which would seem to indicate that there must be something going on there in terms of re-use.

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