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.


  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.


  1. Plans on hold for Philadelphia’s Wynne Theatre | Theatre Historical Society Readerboard

Leave a Reply

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


Recent Posts
Committee Recommends Jewelers Row Buildings For Designation

Committee Recommends Jewelers Row Buildings For Designation

October 21, 2016  |  News

Temporary relief today in the fight to save two historic properties on Jewelers Row from demolition and residential development. Michael Bixler reports > more

Chinatown Tower Receives $1.3 Million State Development Grant

Chinatown Tower Receives $1.3 Million State Development Grant

October 21, 2016  |  Morning Blend

Chinatown tower gets boost from Harrisburg, Rodin Square espouses cargo aesthetic, new construction on the Sharswood/Brewerytown border, and Horticultural Society planting bulbs for spring > more

PAFA Exhibits The Innovative & Inappropriate Photography Of Thomas Eakins

PAFA Exhibits The Innovative & Inappropriate Photography Of Thomas Eakins

October 20, 2016  |  Morning Blend

Eakins through the lens, Lincoln Square renderings, Philly jazz greats honored, and colonial surveying tools come in Fairmount Park > more

Running Away With The Circus At 10th And Callowhill

Running Away With The Circus At 10th And Callowhill

October 20, 2016  |  Harry K's Encyclopedia

Harry K. takes us under the big top on Callowhill Street where acrobats, elephants, and clowns once charmed city crowds > more

Dilworth Park Preps For Winter

Dilworth Park Preps For Winter

October 19, 2016  |  Morning Blend

Dilworth Park transforming into Wintergarden, Planning Commission rejects appealing RCO applications, design competition looks at future of Philly rowhouses, and calls for council hearings on SEPTA’s CCT service > more

With Rohm & Haas Building Nomination, A Layered & Proactive Approach

With Rohm & Haas Building Nomination, A Layered & Proactive Approach

October 18, 2016  |  Morning Blend

The thinking behind an extraordinary proposal for historic protection, former Archdiocesan school moves into shuttered District school, and Temple working toward carbon-neutrality > more