Gem Theatre

48 Elm Street,
Lyndonville, VT 05851

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Additional Info

Previously operated by: Tegu's Palace Theater Inc.

Firms: Wells & Hudson

Functions: Office Space

Styles: Colonial Revival

Previous Names: Tegu's Gem Theatre

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Gem Theatre

The 300-seat Community Theatre operated at this address by 1926. Announced as a $50,000 community project led by Gilbert M. Campbell on September 25, 1929, he had decided to form a company with the new theatre proposition in prospect, and although despite the “Gem” name hasn’t been announced at the time. Built from a former garage lot on the east side of Elm Street, the property has already at the time the property of a hotel, the Darling Inn. Afterward, the name “Gem Theatre” was decided as its name after a quote was spoken: “Gem in the Green”.

Construction of the theatre began on October 17, 1929, by the committees of Elmer A. Darling, Ozias D. Mathewson, Harley E. Folsom, Gilbert M. Campbell, Willis C. Conner, and John L. Norris. A contract was formed and made with the C.D. Marsh Company of Woodsville for the erection of the theatre building at the rear of the Darling Inn. The building despite to be 45x100ft in width with brick, it fitted in a thoroughly modern manner for a playhouse that has long been felt in the town.

Shortly after construction, the theatre survived a couple of natural disasters, such as floods and a fire, including business conditions. The Tegu brothers, John and Andrew, owners of the Palace Theatre in St. Johnsbury (and would later operate the Plaza Theatre in Lyndonville almost two decades later), had signed a long term lease.

The 500-capacity Gem Theatre opened its doors on March 28, 1930 with Helen Twelvetrees in “The Grand Parade”, but was unknown if any cartoons or newsreels were added. The Gem Theatre has a lot of detailed information, which goes as follows:

The capacity of the theatre as of opening was 500 and is constructed to comfort. The building was constructed with a 100x45 foot structure and is entirely fireproof being made of concrete, brick and tile and the floor of the main auditorium being made of concrete. The stage was much smaller than the lobby, with the lobby being 20ft and the stage being 15ft, architected by Wells & Hudson of Hanover, New Hampshire. The projection room itself which measures 18x13x9ft and is possibly enough one of the largest projection rooms in the state at the time with maximum of room. The floor, walls, and ceiling are constricted of cement plaster which were fireproof. Speaking of, the openings in front of the projection room through which are kept closed when not in use and which would automatically close in case of fire.

The openings through which the pictures are shown are covered with optical glass to guard against the slightest sound from machines entering the theatre to interrupt the “talking” picture, and yes, the theatre was wired with RCA Photophone sound with two Simplex projectors with high powered lamps which were part of Tegu’s interest. The stage was draped with dark maroon velours curtains with a silver screen in the center, as the stage and front of the theatre is a most restful sight in the Gem Theatre. The curtains, were measured 13x26½ were opened at the center and will part to either side of the stage. The entrances was constructed with safety to its patrons on one of its leading factors. Besides of the large main entrance, in case of an emergency, there were six other exit doors in total. Two were in front, two in the rear of the room and two at the stage. The theatre is heated with an automatic Biltrite Oil Heater, which used the vapor and vacuum heating system which gives steady heat in case of winter conditions. They were located on the walls thereby insuring even heat throughout the building, as it was furnished and installed by Emmons & Herbert of Lyndonville.

Lastly, the front of the theatre was constructed with high columns on Colonial style lines. On either side of the main entrance were two large glass frames for advertisements. The spacious lobby is unusually attractive as the lobby floor is shaded with dark tile. The box office was located at the rear center of the lobby between the two entrances to the main stage. There was also a private office and lavatories in the rear of the main auditorium, and it also contains a ventilating system with ventilators being on the sides of the stage.

It was the leader for the city of Lyndonville throughout World War II, until the birth of the Plaza Theatre nearby on February 10, 1949. However it had a chance to compete but lost after March 7, 1951 when the Gem Theatre ran its last film, Ingrid Bergman in “Joan Of Arc” with no extra subjects. It literally became a special events theatre, featuring local and national live performances among others.

It was still listed in the 1952 edition of Film Daily Yearbook, but had gone from listings by 1955 and it is unclear when the Gem Theatre closed its doors for the final time, as the hunt still continues.

By 2022 the building is in use as office space for a housing company named Rural Edge.

Contributed by 50sSNIPES
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