Friday, April 16, 2010

Then and Now: The Trans-Lux Theater, 1519 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia


The Trans-Lux Theater first opened in 1934 as a newsreel theater, one of the many cinemas that once lined Chestnut Street west of Broad. Its design is attributed to the prolific American theater architect Thomas W. Lamb, best known for his classical revival theater designs from the 1910s and 20s. However, as the Trans-Lux attests, he managed to transition masterfully into Art Deco during the later years of his career.

Tragically, in 1970, the theater's facade was completely rebuilt before its reopening as the Eric's Place Theatre. Oddly enough, the renovations were done by an 85-year-old William Harold Lee, himself a prominent Philadelphian theater architect. It is simply unfathomable to me how he could have consented to the destruction of the Lamb's exquisite design.

Chestnut Street's beleaguered row of movie houses collapsed in the early 1990s; Eric's Place closed in 1993 and reopened in 2006 as an athletics shoe store.

A photograph of the shuttered Eric's Place Theatre [HowardBHaas on Flickr]

Source: Bryan and Howard B. Haas. "Eric's Place Theatre." Cinema Treasures. 15 Apr. 2010.
Original photo: Gee, William A. "Public Works-35005-0." 1935. Philadelphia City Archives. Philadelphia Department of Records. 15 Apr. 2010.

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