Wynne Theater Plans On Hold

Photo: Rachel Hildebrandt

Community Design Collaborative’s twentieth anniversary is approaching and in celebration, the organization will publish a book highlighting their work. Leverage: Strengthening Neighborhoods through Design, which will be released in October, will highlight some of CDC’s best work, including the Wynne Theater feasibility study, completed last March.

The vacant Wynne Theater, located at the northeast corner of 54th and Arlington Streets in Wynnefield, was built in 1927-1928 for the Stanley Company of America, which became Stanley Warner Theaters. From its opening until its closing in 1955, the 1,663-seat theater showed second run films and double features. Shortly after the theater closed, it was converted into a multi-purpose community hall, hosting celebrations and events for almost four decades. In 1993, the hall’s last proprietor passed away, leaving the 32,000 square foot building unused and unmaintained.

The firm that designed the yellow-brick, Renaissance Revival-style theater, Hoffman-Henon Co., is best known for designing movie theaters as well as churches throughout the city and suburbs. They are responsible for the highly-visible Boyd Theater on the 1900 block of Chestnut and the recently converted Jumbo Theater at Front and Girard.

Three years ago, the CDC selected the Wynnefield Overbrook Revitalization Corporation, which counts Mayor Michael Nutter among its board members, to receive a service grant. The grant was used to create conceptual plans for redevelopment of the Wynne Theater complex. Completed in 2010, the report presented several reuse options.

The CDC’s vision for the property. Photo courtesy of the Community Design Collaborative

According to WORC board member Wadell Ridley Jr., community stakeholders favored the community center option. That option entails replacing the unsafe theater space with a large community hall above ground level parking and rehabilitating the historic headhouse so that it can again house retailers on the ground level with residents above.

Unfortunately, the project has not yet gotten off the ground. Ridley blames the fact that there is no clear title to the property and the reality that the WORC has been unable to identify a developer willing to invest the $6.7 million estimated cost.

Despite those obstacles, the tide may be changing. For the first time in over twenty years, the neighborhood is experiencing investment. Just blocks away, at the intersection of 54th and Wynnefield, eight new townhouses are under construction.

About the author

Rachel Hildebrandt, a recent graduate of PennDesign, is a native Philadelphian who is passionate about the changing city she inhabits. Before beginning her graduate studies in historic preservation with a focus on policy, Rachel obtained a B.A. in Psychology from Chestnut Hill College and co-authored two books, The Philadelphia Area Architecture of Horace Trumbauer (2009) and Oak Lane, Olney, and Logan (2011). She currently works as a program associate at Partners for Sacred Places.



2 Comments


  1. Wayne Zimmerman, Sr.

    In my humble opinion, the Wynne “project”, is an “unlikely to succeed” venture as is the Lansdowne Theatre escapade.
    If somehow all the needed money is provided and both of these jobs get completed, what then?? Neither neighborhood will support these future “white elephants.”
    If in the years to come I’m proven wrong, I can simply state that “I was wrong”. Nothing wrong in admitting that, and there is no money lost.
    But if in the years to come I’m proven correct, who will say “We were wrong”? Most likely no one! And what about the lost money?? Too bad!!
    Any such funds would be better directed towards the restoration of the Boyd Theatre in downtown Phila. Neighborhood “money pits” are just “black holes.”

  2. Friends of the Boyd, Inc. (of which I lead as president) appreciate support for the Boyd Theatre’s restoration, but we certainly haven’t proclaimed that other projects should not be supported. Some of our leadership, including myself, have visited the closed Lansdowne Theatre and have great respect for effots there.

Trackbacks

  1. Plans on hold for Philadelphia’s Wynne Theatre | Theatre Historical Society Readerboard
Recent Posts
Widdy Dialect: The

Widdy Dialect: The “Hoagie” Of Darts

April 17, 2014  |  Makin' It

Under the rumbling El and amidst the hustle and bustle at Kensington and Somerset, a distinctly Philadelphian brand of darts is made the same way it has been for over 100 years—by hand. Brad Maule throws a round with Widdy Darts > more

New PWD Project To Teach Children Ecology & Technology

New PWD Project To Teach Children Ecology & Technology

April 17, 2014  |  Morning Blend

GreenSTEM systems to be installed in four schools, the inequality of urban pollution, jazz month in Philly, parklets being installed in West Philly, and terrible timing in closing Kensington store > more

A Last Look at Second Baptist Church

A Last Look at Second Baptist Church

April 16, 2014  |  Last Light

The demolition of a former house of worship in Northern Liberties has provided a glimpse into the building's history > more

PATCO Announces $7.5 System Upgrade

PATCO Announces $7.5 System Upgrade

April 16, 2014  |  Morning Blend

Clearer information and working escalators for PATCO, delays in UC student housing development, the William Penn Foundation’s new approach to safe watershed awareness, and what the Lower Northwest invented for the world > more

A Golden Glow For <em>The Inquirer's</em> Saffron

A Golden Glow For The Inquirer’s Saffron

April 15, 2014  |  News

Yesterday, the Pulitzer Prize board announced its 2014 winners. After 15 years with a watchful eye on Philadelphia's built environment, the Inquirer's Inga Saffron won journalism's highest award for criticism > more

Advocacy Group To Urge Lawmakers To End “Lingering” Zoning Variances

Advocacy Group To Urge Lawmakers To End “Lingering” Zoning Variances

April 15, 2014  |  Morning Blend

CDAG to work towards “reasonable sunset provisions” on waterfront development proposals, the promise of the Mantua Promise Zone, Charles Willson Peale and the revolutionary museum imperative, SEPTA to test all-night subway service this summer, and cherries blossoming in Chestnut Hill > more