Update: Wynne Theater Demolition Imminent

The letters being removed in December 2011. Photo: Provenance Architecturals, LLC

The Wynne Theater’s days are numbered. According to Curtis Cephas, a consultant to Fourth District city councilman Curtus Jones, the long vacant theater is among four properties in the district being targeted for redevelopment. The other properties–vacant lots–are located at 59th and Market, 55th and Poplar, and 49th and Parkside.

The 1,700 seat theater opened in 1928, at 54th Street and Arlington, in Wynnefield, last showed movies in 1955. It was later converted to a banquet hall. It’s best known for the WYNNE sign attached to 20 foot lattice on the roof of the building. The marquis sign below it was removed in December. For our previous report on the Wynne, click HERE.

The city acquired the Wynne when it went to sheriff’s sale this summer. The previous owner, reportedly a family in conflict over the property, had accumulated over $500,000 in back taxes.

Councilman Jones’ office is currently accepting proposals for the site and has already received several inquiries. Because the building has been open to the elements for over a decade, preservation in whole or even in part is no longer considered a feasible option.

Cephas believes that the site is ideal for a mixed-use complex anchored by senior housing. Lafayette Hill-based developer Presby recently broke ground for a a similar project several blocks away. It filled before breaking ground.





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. The CDC report proposed keeping the front portion of the building, along with the rooftop sign (which is the last of its kind in the city). Is it just Jones who is claiming partial preservation is no longer feasible? Or has he let engineers in?
    Were the rooftop letters really removed in December? I thought only the marquee was removed.

    • Ben, you’re right–it was the marquis letters removed in December. I updated the post.
      Rachel should be able to answer the questions on Jones’ assessment.

    • Rachel Hildebrandt

      Cephas didn’t specify, so I’m nearly positive that it’s Jones’ determination.

    • I was in here last summer and it was in pretty sad shape. Garbage everywhere and just a damp dark environment on the first floor, lots of rust and muck. I also recall there may have been a hole in the roof and the second floor did have some soft spots (they divided the auditorium with a floor at balcony level)

      I could see where if it were going to be saved nothing would be salvageable but the buildings shell. Its almost worth keeping the fromt facade just for the Wynne sign.

  2. As a lifetime Wynnefield resident….it’ll be different to see some actual life in this building, it’s just been a waste of space for as long as I’ve known. Glad to see something done…..anything, really.

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