Unlisted Philadelphia: Locust Theatre

 

Editor’s Note: A version of this story was published in the Fall 2017 issue of Extant, a publication of the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia.

Unlisted Philadelphia highlights interesting and significant Philadelphia buildings not yet listed on the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places. To learn more about the local designation process and how you can participate in nominating a building to the Philadelphia Register, visit the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia’s website for more information.

BUILDING: Locust Theatre/Bushfire Theatre of Performing Arts

LOCATION: 228-36 South 52nd Street

ARCHITECT: Stuckert & Sloan

YEAR: 1914

Philadelphia once boasted more than 400 movie theaters. Only 135 or so still stand. Of those, few can match the show-stopping charm of the former Locust Theatre at 52nd and Locust Streets. Draped in terracotta and studded with incandescent light bulbs (look closely and you’ll see many still screwed in place), the Locust opened as a vaudeville and silent movie house in 1914. Since 1977, it has been home to the Bushfire Theatre of Performing Arts.

Astonishingly few historic theaters are listed on the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places, and in recent years several that were listed (significantly, the Royal and the Boyd) ended up demolished. Adding theaters like the Locust to the Register, while not a guarantee against demolition, could draw more attention to this sadly fading side of Philadelphia’s once tinselled past.

About the author

Ben Leech is a preservationist, architectural historian and illustrator based in Philadelphia and Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Instagram @bentleech and support his capitalist alter-ego at Archivolt Press



3 Comments


  1. A great idea, especially if it does not have a negative impact on Bushfire. I thought this was about the Locust Theater at Broad and Locust, whose lobby is now Estia, and the theater itself was under the office building, or behind it, and was torn down. Many touring plays were on there, also the Ballets Russes.

  2. Do we know anything about the “Architect” Sloan mentioned as architect for Locust St Theatre at 52nd and Locust? Full name and any other buildings designed?
    Thanks for any added facts.

Leave a Reply

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

Recent Posts
Willis Hale's Bold Beginnings On The Delaware River

Willis Hale’s Bold Beginnings On The Delaware River

October 20, 2017  |  The Shadow Knows

The work of Willis G. Hale, the mind behind the much-adored Divine Lorraine and the frankly fussy Hale Building, is enjoying a renaissance as of late. The Victorian architect's penchant for brazen facades can be traced back to a warehouse on the Delaware River, demolished in the 1960s to make way for I-95. The Shadow has the backstory > more

On 40th Street, New Life For A Long-Hidden Furness

On 40th Street, New Life For A Long-Hidden Furness

October 18, 2017  |  Vantage

What's it take to restore this early Furness? Hidden City talks to developer Tom Lussenhop about the tear-down disaster ongoing across the city and his plans for the former West Philadelphia Institute > more

Praise And Protest At Historical Commission Meeting

Praise And Protest At Historical Commission Meeting

October 17, 2017  |  News

Applause and anger filled the room at the monthly Historical Commission meeting on Friday. GroJLart has the details > more

The True Center Of The City Revealed

The True Center Of The City Revealed

October 13, 2017  |  Harry K's Encyclopedia

City Hall may be the "heart" of Philadelphia, but an unassuming corner in North Philly is the true center of the city. Harry K. explores the evolution of Penn's greene country towne and how Philadelphia has a history of being the center of attention > more

LIGHTS! MUSIC! ACTION! Historic Lansdowne Theater Poised For A Comeback

LIGHTS! MUSIC! ACTION! Historic Lansdowne Theater Poised For A Comeback

October 11, 2017  |  Vantage

After 30 years' slumber, Lansdowne's sumptuous Art Deco movie palace is ready to wake up, and rouse Main Street too, with music and community spirit. Ben Leech has the story > more

Wish You Were Here: Postcards From The Past Recall

Wish You Were Here: Postcards From The Past Recall “Real Philadelphia”

October 10, 2017  |  Vantage

The Athenaeum of Philadelphia's new exhibition, "Real Philadelphia: Selections from the Robert M. Skaler Postcard Collection," puts elusive images of working class city life in the limelight. Contributor Karen Chernick has the review > more