409 W. College Street,
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Previous Names: Lyric Theatre, Peoples Theatre, Liberty Theatre
This venue opened as the Lyric Theatre on December 24, 1906 with six live vaudeville acts and motion pictures. It sported four boxes on each side of the stage, a main orchestra, and 18-row balcony. Little Olgoa, the Contortionist, was the first of five vaudeville acts at the Grand Opening along with motion pictures on the Dolograph which was in from its summer outdoor screenings at Doling Park.
The Lyric Theatre closed with vaudeville on May 6, 1911. Under new operators it rebranded as the Peoples Theater with vaudeville and motion pictures at its grand opening on October 12, 1911 by R.B. McCormick and managed by Captain Peabody who had been programming motion pictures and live vaudeville in Springfield since 1907 and whose show business career roots were said to have dated back to the 1870’s in Kansas City.
Peabody boasted of “never having given a bad performance” but died in May of 1914. The Peoples drifted without its Captain and ran ashore, forcibly closed on February 11, 1917 prior to its last vaudeville show starring Shutta’s Musical Dolls. The local code enforcers shut the venue as “unsafe and unsanitary".
Two years later after making repairs and undoubtedly a deep cleaning, it reopened as the Liberty Theatre on March 30, 1919. It had a $10,000 theatre pipe organ reopening, playing discount, sub-run feature films with William Duncan in “Man of Might”. But after offering discounts, coupons and cash prizes, the Liberty Theatre under new management switched from movies to live plays and vaudeville, closing on September 19, 1920. On September 26, 1920 it was renamed Empress Theater, presenting plays until its closure on Match 30, 1923. It was retrofitted for retail use.
On December 1, 1930, the Farris Nahon Dry Goods retail store opened after a month-long refresh. The building was later demolished.
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