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

Leave a Reply

Comment moderation is enabled, no need to resubmit any comments posted.

Recent Posts
Building A Dreamboat During The Height Of The Great Depression

Building A Dreamboat During The Height Of The Great Depression

June 27, 2017  |  The Shadow Knows

What did boat-loving businessmen do during the Great Depression while their companies were tanking? Build themselves yachts, of course! The Shadow sets sail for Southwest Philly where a curvy factory building gave life to a buoyant diversion > more

With A Little Help From Frank Furness, We Evaluate 10 New Projects

With A Little Help From Frank Furness, We Evaluate 10 New Projects

June 23, 2017  |  Vantage

Hidden City architecture critic Jason Lempieri summons the spirit of Frank Furness in this appraisal of Philly's newest urban forms > more

Row House: Past And Its Future

Row House: Past And Its Future

June 20, 2017  |  Vantage

Contributor Hilary Jay dives deep into the evolution and politics of contemporary row house design with Interface Studio Architects > more

An Artful Adaptation In Bella Vista

An Artful Adaptation In Bella Vista

June 15, 2017  |  News

A contemporary art gallery and residence on Bainbridge Street goes green with reuse and sustainable renovation. John Henry Scott has the story > more

Behind The Bar At Dirty Frank's

Behind The Bar At Dirty Frank’s

June 13, 2017  |  The Shadow Knows

The Shadow saddles up to the bar at Dirty Frank's with the backstory on one of Philadelphia's most beloved dives > more

With New Penn's Landing Plan, A Central Park

With New Penn’s Landing Plan, A Central Park

June 12, 2017  |  News

Lost in the intense news cycle: major news about the at-long-last redevelopment of Penn's Landing. Nathaniel Popkin has a look > more