Up in the Club

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In 1981 John Bowser (his brother Charles was the first black candidate for mayor of Philadelphia) turned the offices of the historic Uptown Theater into a four-floor nightclub.  He died weeks after the club opened, however, and it closed shortly thereafter.

Now the Uptown Development Corp. is turning the space back into offices–the first step toward restoring the rest of the theater, which started out as a movie palace, and later became famous as Philadelphia’s answer to the Apollo, hosting stars such as Marvin Gaye, James Brown and Diana Ross. Before they demo the rooms, though, here’s a taste of that early ’80s glam atmosphere.

Peter Woodall is the co-editor of Hidden City Daily. He is a graduate of the UC Berkeley School of Journalism, and a former newspaper reporter with the Biloxi Sun Herald and the Sacramento Bee. He worked as a producer for Radio Times with Marty Moss-Coane and wrote a column about neighborhood bars for PhiladelphiaWeekly.com.



2 Comments


  1. I really hope this project happens. I’ve been interested in that theater since I moved into the Temple dorms just down the street from in in 1985.

    • Gersil N. Kay, IESNA

      Here is a wonderful chance to have a venue where high school youths in a new Academy of Building Conservation can work in afternoons for pay, after morning academic sessions, under experienced supervisors on the hugh, untapped market for upgrading and installing anew modern mechanical/ electricsl systems expected by today’s occupants to be present in every building, no matter what the age.

      Of all the disciplines, Lighting is the easiest with which to conserve energy and reduce CO2 emissions. Good lighting enhances all design and increases productivity = PROFIT.

      Building Conservation International (BCI) is the technical, non-profit educational organization that received the first President of the United States’ Historic Preservation Award for innovative research and training in dealing with the millions of pre-1940 structures still in use in this country.

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