Garden Theater

168 Pearl Street,
Buffalo, NY 14202

Unfavorite No one has favorited this theater yet

Additional Info

Previously operated by: Shea Theatres

Architects: George J. Metzger

Previous Names: Palm Garden Theatre, Shea's Garden Theater, Empire Theater

Nearby Theaters

The Palm Garden Theatre opened in a converted roller rink that, itself, had launched in 1879 as the Buffalo Roller Rink (called as a rink of “unsurpassed” quality found in any other city) followed by operating as the Garden Rink. The Palm Garden Theatre featured burlesque and vaudeville at its launch by M.S. Robinson on May 18, 1897, the conversion was to the plans of architect George J. Metzger. Michael Shea took at year’s end and gave it a major overhaul and new name as Shea’s Garden Theater. He launched it on March 21, 1898 with vaudeville and a pledge from Shea that he’d rather lose money on a good show than make money on a show that would not meet patrons' expectations. He delivered Harry Houdini, the man of mastery, on multiple occasions to prove that.

Shea would move from the Garden Theater to the former Park Theatre as well as later creating the far more famous Hippodrome and Shea’s Buffalo Theatre. As the local newspaper reported, “Buffalonians will follow Manager Shea wherever he goes (due to his) excellent attractions.” Though a tough act to follow, Columbia Amusement took on the Garden Theater venue (dropping Shea’s, obviously) on November 4, 1906 and by November 11, 1906, movies were incorporated into the show with increasing frequency and greater lengths as Columbia tried to find a marketing advantage. It worked and Columbia kept the Garden Theatre fertile exiting in 1913. Not surprisingly, the Garden Theater devolved by a notch from its next operator as a burlesque house for Progressive. Progressive dissolved in October of 1914 and Columbia was back continuing with burley with films in its program mix.

By 1915, the Garden Theater featured movies between 13 and 15 reels as well as live vaudeville. A marketing advantage was that the theatre was “all smoking” “all the time” allowing patrons to smoke at any seat in the auditorium. On January 3, 1915, the Garden Theater was closed and it was expected to be demolished for an interurban station. However, those plans stalled and the venue continued short-term hosting live boxing matches.

By the end of the 1910’s, the Garden Theater was a photoplay house and it changed names under operator Samuel Carver to the Empire Theater on March 9, 1920 relaunching with a policy of full-time movies with William Farnum in “The Adventurer”. Unfortunately, in 1922, Carver pleaded guilty to tax evasion ending his run at the Empire Theater. On September 2, 1922, new operators brought back the Garden Theater with Pat White in “Irish Daisies”. The Mutual Circuit took over the Garden Theater switching it back to burlesque along with boxing films flown in from Madison Square Garden almost immediately after the conclusion of the fights. Mutual Burlesque merged with Columbia Burlesque in January of 1928.

The merged company, called United Burlesque Circuit, consolidated its Buffalo exhibition in the Gaiety Theatre on January 15, 1928 ending the the Garden Theater’s run. The Garden Theater went out with a burley show and films of the Tom Heeney-Jack Sharkey fight that were brought by airplane immediately after the fight concluded as well as the Tommy Loughran fight over Jimmy Slattery. The night likely ended with a groan as not only did the Garden Theater close but the Heeney-Sharkey fight ended in a draw. Too aged to be equipped as a sound movie theatre, the Garden Theater dried up after its 30-year lease had ended.

The 49-year old former skating rink turned Garden Theater was soon converted into the Shelton Square Garage - a parking complex that launched in September of 1928 for the One Hundred Sixty-Eight Pearl Street Corporation. The Shelton property was a public parking garage which also housed the fleet and operation of the 45 Cent Cab Company and had a gas station. The building was demolished in 1935 and the 45 Cent Cab Company went bankrupt. The neighboring D.S. Morgan Building survived from 1895 to 1965 when it was demolished (see photographs in the photos section).

Contributed by dallasmovietheaters
You must login before making a comment.

New Comment

Subscribe Want to be emailed when a new comment is posted about this theater?
Just login to your account and subscribe to this theater.