Towne Theatre

20 N. Market Street,
Johnstown, NY 12095

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Additional Info

Previously operated by: Smalley's Theaters Inc.

Architects: O.H. Williams, T.H. Williams

Functions: Housing, Retail

Previous Names: Smalley's Johnstown Theatre, Smalley's Theatre

Nearby Theaters

Towne Theatre

Smalley’s Johnstown Theatre was built on the site of the Grand Theatre, and opened in 1928. The theatre featured vaudeville, special stage events, and movies during its long history. By 1941 it was known as Smalley’s Theatre. It was renamed Towne Theatre in 1960, and closed in the 1970’s. The auditorium has been demolished, but the front of the building survives.

Contributed by ERD

Recent comments (view all 9 comments)

ERD on March 31, 2004 at 6:45 pm

For many years Smalley’s remained the only theatre in Johnstown. It was built on the site of the old Grand theatre.

ERD on March 23, 2008 at 4:23 pm

The picture comes from JOHNSTOWN (Images of America) by Lewis G. Decker.Published by Arcadia.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on February 6, 2013 at 3:36 am

Smalley’s Johnstown Theatre was built in 1928 on the site of the Grand Theatre, which burned early that year.

The obituary of Hazel Smalley, widow of William Smalley, was published in the February 5, 1969, issue of the Leader-Herald newspaper. It said that Smalley’s Johnstown Theatre had been renamed the Towne Theatre in 1960.

Kris4077 on August 28, 2013 at 5:38 pm

I lived on Market st in Johnstown for a few years and this building is still there it is now stores with apartments upstairs. I know this because in Lewis Deckers book of Johnstown, The picture of smalleys says that it was across the street from the YMCA, the YMCA building is still there, this building has very unique molding design below its windows on the upper stories it is a round flower shaped design, these are still on the building today. The last time I saw it one section of the building was painted a different color than the rest, probably denoting a different owner. I will try the next time I go to visit my mother to get a photograph of it.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on December 23, 2014 at 1:47 am

This is the report from the January 7, 1928, issue of Motion Picture News on the destruction by fire of Smalley’s Theatre in Johnstown, New York:

“Fire Destroys Smalley’s Johnstown House

“Smalley’s theatre in Johnstown, N. Y., operated by William Smalley, of Cooperstown, owner of a chain of a dozen or more motion picture theatres, in New York state, was burned to the ground on the afternoon of January 1, with the resultant loss of over $200,000. The fire was one of the most spectacular in many months in the Mohawk Valley. Firemen from both Johnstown and Gloversville fought the blaze for three hours or more with zero temperature prevailing. The blaze is thought to have originated from a defective pipe in the boiler room. It was discovered about one-half hour before the matinee. The fire was then working its way through the floor and the crackling was noticed by the janitor and the house electrician, the only two persons who were in the theatre at the time.

“The theatre was built in 1889 and was being operated by Mr. Smalley under a twenty-year lease. There was over 11,000 feet of film stored in the booth and this added impetus to the flames as they swept upward and through the building. Adjoining structures were also damaged.”

Although the report says that the house was burned to the ground, the front section of the building must have survived. The building now at this address is in the Queen Anne style, popular in the 1870s and 1880s. This web page has a photo of Smalley’s that must have dated from before the fire, as it shows the building with four bay windows across the front instead of the three it now has. The site of the demolished bay, which was occupied by the theater’s entrance, is now occupied by an alley.

It’s likely that the original auditorium of the theater was completely destroyed by the fire, but the facade in the vintage photo is clearly the same one that is still partly intact. However, Google’s satellite view shows that a parking lot has replaced the theater’s auditorium. The awkward placement of the four bays seen in the vintage photo suggests that the original theater was built behind an existing structure, and the fourth bay was added to accommodate the theater entrance at that time. The new auditorium must have occupied the same spot, but it too has now been demolished.

I think that the Smalley’s Theatre destroyed in 1928 was the former Johnstown Opera House/Grand Opera House, just as the page with the vintage photo says it was. The MPN article says that Smalley’s had been built in 1889, which is the right time for it to have been the Opera house. The original Opera House was designed by Leon H. Lempert, but I haven’t been able to discover who designed Smalley’s New Johnstown Theatre which replaced it.

dallasmovietheaters on February 7, 2016 at 4:06 am

Architects were T.H. and O.H. Williams, Utica-based architects OPerated by the Mohawk Valley Circuit — one of 14 theaters owned by William C. Smalley

DavidZornig on March 23, 2020 at 3:45 pm

Crisper version of the 1934 photo added, courtesy Steve Oare.

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