Boyd Remains in Limbo

Entrance to the Boyd Theater, 1928. Photo: The Irvin R. Glazer Collection, Athenaeum of Philadelphia.

Boyd Remains in Limbo

Auditorium of the Boyd Theater prior to Mock-Up, 2005. Credit: Rob Bender.

 

Fans of the historic Boyd Theater on Chestnut Street are still looking for a white knight to replace Hal Wheeler, who died in early 2010, before his plans to restore the movie palace could be realized.

Wheeler planned a full restoration of Center City’s last great movie house as part of a Kimpton-Monaco hotel connected to the space, designed by Martinez + Johnston Architecture. After receiving the necessary permits and obtaining community support for the project, Wheeler suffered a fatal heart attack, leaving the Boyd without a clear future yet again.

“It’s a tragedy and unfortunately we are not yet at the point when we can say for sure that it is saved,” said Friends of the Boyd founder Howard Haas. “It’s like City Hall or the Academy of Music and many other wonderful buildings that came close to being demolished and instead have become our great, treasured landmarks.”

Entrance to the Boyd Theater, 1928. Credit: The Irvin R. Glazer Collection, Athenaeum of Philadelphia.

The Boyd is listed on the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places, which protects it from demolition.  However, property owners can submit a financial hardship application to the Historical Commission that if approved would allow a protected building to be torn down.

Built in 1928 by Hoffman-Henon Co., the 2,350-seater was the premiere Art Deco-style movie palace in Center City. The interior featured etched and colored glass throughout the lobby, and a mural series in the auditorium centered on “The Triumph of the Modern Woman.”

Wheeler’s aborted plan was the second near-miss for Boyd restoration efforts.  In 2006, after four years of advocacy by Friends of the Boyd, the building was sold to Clear Channel following the bankruptcy of United Artists. Restoration studies found that remnants of the original decorations were still intact.  The original murals had survived, as did a beautifully preserved fire curtain with its original Art Deco design, and a sample of the original carpet with its original 1928 Art Deco design that was found underneath a candy stand.

The plans were short-lived, however. Clear Channel spun off its theaters into the independent corporation Live Nation, which subsequently shifted its corporate focus, putting the theater up for sale.

Perhaps the third time will be the charm for the Boyd, when (and if) it comes.

Tomorrow, in News: an update on the redevelopment of the Wynne Theater

About the author

Lauren Drapala works as an architectural conservator at the Fairmount Park Historic Preservation Trust. Since moving to Philadelphia in 2008 to earn her Masters in Historic Preservation from the University of Pennsylvania, she has been mesmerized by the wealth of architectural resources throughout the city and its surrounding districts. Continuing the research she began in her graduate work, Lauren is currently authoring a book about the 20th century interiors and decorative screens of Robert Winthrop Chanler. Learn more about this project at http://robertwinthropchanler.tumblr.com/.



1 Comment


  1. Please visit our website, join our free email list, and from the website, visit our Facebook page which has many photos.
    http://www.friendsoftheboyd.org

Trackbacks

  1. Hidden City Philadelphia profiles Boyd Theatre status | Theatre Historical Society Readerboard
Recent Posts
Coworking Firm Announces Two New Philly Locations

Coworking Firm Announces Two New Philly Locations

September 2, 2014  |  Morning Blend

40K more square-feet of office space by year’s end, ZBA says no to another story for off-campus housing, Sixers going 3D, department store to reopen in the Northeast, and the demolition that nearly wasn’t > more

What Lies Beyond The Blue Horizon? The Fabled Venue's Future In Doubt

What Lies Beyond The Blue Horizon? The Fabled Venue’s Future In Doubt

September 2, 2014  |  Developing Challenges, News

The clock is ticking to save the Blue Horizon. Michael Buozis walks us through the details of how one of the greatest venues in boxing history ended up on a hotel developer's chopping block > more

The Physical & Political Importance Of Goldtex

The Physical & Political Importance Of Goldtex

August 29, 2014  |  Morning Blend

Loft District conversion project finally complete, Manayunk parish to preserve historic church, Temple professor talks ’64 riot, major mixed-use for NoLibs, and previewing Greenfest Philly 2014 > more

Ruminating On Lost Columbia Avenue

Ruminating On Lost Columbia Avenue

August 29, 2014  |  Soapbox

In this third installment in our series, Ethan Wallace examines the long term effects the Columbia Avenue riot has had on this weary section of North Philadelphia. Dubbed an "extinction event", Wallace sifts through the ruins of the once vibrant neighborhood while considering the encroaching development of Temple University's campus and the social unrest happening in Ferguson, Missouri > more

'Scared Half To Death,' Reporter Says

‘Scared Half To Death,’ Reporter Says

August 28, 2014  |  Vantage

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the Columbia Avenue riot. For the second installment of our series, we have a first person account by Philadelphia Evening Bulletin reporter William Naulty, who was sent in to cover the mayhem on the night of August 28, 1964 > more

Roxborough Sawmill Preserves An Old Industrial Aesthetic

Roxborough Sawmill Preserves An Old Industrial Aesthetic

August 28, 2014  |  Morning Blend

One man's mission to preserve the physical history of industrial Philadelphia, groundbreaking for Rodin Square, street mural requested for Triangles Plaza, the genesis of JFK and 30th Street Station, and this weekend's Made in America Fest > more