Palace Theatre

109 Court Street,
Scollay Square,
Boston, MA

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Showing 19 comments

MarkB on November 14, 2011 at 6:38 pm

For the program above, Thursday the 29th occurred in 1917, 1906 and 1894.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on May 30, 2011 at 6:32 am

A few comments here mentioned the telephone company museum, which until recently was in the Verizon building at Post Office Square. That museum is being relocated to the Verizon building in Bowdoin Square, just a short distance from where the Palace stood.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on March 15, 2011 at 10:43 am

In the book “Boston Then and Now” by Peter Vanderwalker (Dover, 1982) there is a photo taken in 1925 which shows the Bowdoin Square Theatre on the left and the Palace Theatre’s marquee in the center-distance. On the next page is a similar photo taken in 1934. The Bowdoin Square Theatre is still there, but the Palace and its front building are gone.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on April 17, 2009 at 11:25 am

The Billboard trade paper of Sept 8, 1906 has an artice by their Boston correspondent about the opening of the Fall theater season in Boston. The Palace opened with Bob Manchester’s “Cracker Jacks” on stage. The busy Bob Manchester also had another show opening at the same time at the Lyceum Theatre (which was demolished to make way for the Gayety/Publix) on Washington Street downtown.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on June 6, 2007 at 10:37 am

The Palace is listed in the 1928 Film Daily Yearbook as part of the Boas Circuit, run by L.M. Boas at 40 Court St. in Boston. Boas also ran the Park Theatre on lower Washington St., plus the Olympic in Bowdoin Square, as well as a “Rialto” and “Strand” in Boston. If the latter two houses are the Rialto and the Strand in Scollay Square, then 4 of the Boas houses were located close together in the Scollay/Bowdoin area. (The Boas head office was also in this area).

DavidKruh on July 13, 2006 at 4:31 pm

What makes the Palace even more important is that in a laboratory in the attic, Thomas Edison invented his first patented invention (the automatic vote counter) and Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Watson first heard the sound of a human voice over their invention, the telephone (that event is commemorated by a plaque that now sits in front of the JFK Federal Building.)

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on April 13, 2006 at 7:48 am

The history of Boston theatres book written by Donald King states that movies were presented at the Palace as early as 1897, using the “Aumorgraph” system.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on February 8, 2006 at 4:37 pm

The Palace is visible, and properly identified by name, on this 1895 map. It is on the east side where Sudbury and Court streets diverge. (Thanks to Ron Salters for noticing it.)

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on January 21, 2006 at 7:32 am

Thanks to Deanna for posting an interesting program— too bad there’s no date on it. Note the Lessee, Gitruh Amusement Co. Gitruh is Hurtig spelled backwards— could this possibly be Hurtig of Hurtig & Seamon, noted theatrical producers many decades ago. You can find the location of the Palace on a 1928 colored map which Ron Newman posted last June on the page for the Strand Theatre in Scollay Square. The Palace was located between Hanover Street and Sudbury St., (closer to the latter), and is identified on the map simply as “Theatre” without the Palace name.

OhioOperaLover on January 17, 2006 at 5:53 am

We have an old playbill from The Palace (unfortunately, they didn’t bother to print a “year” on it). It reads thus (note: some of the singers would become quite famous) …

BERNARD LUSTIG, Resident Manager


Principal Artists of the
(of Massachusetts)




No. 1 — The Star Spangled Banner
Sarame Raynolds

No. 2 — Third Act of Rigoletto
Queena Sinathino
Barbara Maurel
Eduardo Le Jarazu
Ernest Davis

No. 3 — First Act Cavalleria (Rusticana)
Sarame Raynolds
Omera Porrega
Fely Clement
Maria Lara

No. 4 — First Act Tales of Hoffman
Queena Sinathino
Barbara Maurel
Paolo Ananian
Graham Marr
Ernesto Romario
Armando Finzi

No. 5 — Act Three, Lucia di Lammermoor
Ada Navarrete
Fely Clement
Omera Porrega
Eduardo Le Jarazu
Paolo Ananian
Ernest Davis

No. 6 — Mad Scene from Lucia di Lammermoor
Ada Navarrete
Paolo Ananian

No. 7 — Marsellaise
Barbara Maurel

CONDUCTOR Agide Jacchia

Five minute intermission between numbers two and three, four and five. Seven minute intermission between five and six.

[union bug at bottom right corner, with number “5]

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on October 31, 2005 at 8:36 am

The same photo mentioned above also appears on page 87 (top) of the new Arcadia Press book “Scollay Square” by David Kruh, only here it is less cropped so slightly more of the Palace front can be seen. I don’t know if one went straight in from the street, of if one turned left inside to face the screen. The bottom photo on page 87 shows the front of the Palace marquee on the left edge of the picture. The top photo on page 88 of the book also shows a little bit of the Palace— Above the subway entrance is a sign reading “Subway to All Points” — just above that sign in the distance can be seen the white south wall of the Palace building, with chimneys on top and the outline of the dormer windows on the top floor.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on October 5, 2005 at 7:43 am

Check out the photo on page 155 of the new “Theatres of Boston” book by Donald King. At the extreme left side, lower half, of the photo can be seen the right edge of the Palace facade. The dormer window with the curved top is where the Alexander Graham Bell telephone laboratory was located. Of course, Bell worked there before the theatre entrance was installed below. This attic has been preserved and is (was?) in the lobby of the phone company building on the south side of Post Office Square. Enter the lobby and take a sharp right. They made a neat little museum out of it. You look out thru the window and see the facade of the Old Howard in the distance. With the security concerns today, I’m not sure if the little museum is still there in the building lobby, but it is a little bit of the Palace which lives on. In its last years, the Palace showed Italian films, including Italian talkies. Demolished Spring 1931. The Palace was across Scollay Square from the big Olympia Theatre.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on June 20, 2005 at 3:50 am

According to Donald C. King’s new book The Theatres of Boston: A Stage and Screen History, Austin’s Palace Theater opened on Memorial Day, 1891, with 1100 seats. It replaced Austin’s earlier Nickel Museum or Nickelodeon in the same building.

“In July 1894 the Palace Tehatre introduced the stage spotlight, the first in the country, using a searchlight like those used on Navy man-of-war ships. The spotlight was fixed to the gallery railing, to illuminate marches and living pictures.”

It was very briefly renamed the Trocadero in 1896 and 1897, then became the Palace again, playing burlesque and vaudeville.

A Boston Post article in April 1931 reports on the theatre’s demolition, and lists some of the performers who had appeared on its stage: Al Jolson, Weber and Fields, Montgomery and Stone, Clark and McCullough, Gallagher and Shean, Mack Sennett, Eddie Cantor, Fanny Brice, Will Rogers, Jim Jeffries, and John L. Sullivan.

I don’t know what occupied the site of the Palace between 1931 and the early 1960s, when almost everything else in Scollay Square was demolished.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on April 5, 2005 at 7:17 pm

The Boston Athenaeum’s History of Boston Theatres lists “Austin’s Palace Theatre” at this address, from 1891 to 1897, and says:

“This playhouse was located at 109 Court Street and specialized in vaudeville acts and burlesque as well as more conventional theater as part of its twice daily performances. Program covers include an illustration of the theater’s interior.”

The Athenaeum has copies of programs from this theatre in 1891 and 1892.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on April 2, 2005 at 10:11 am

I did not realize that my link above was temporary. Here’s a permanent link):displayType=1:m856sd=det:m856sf=4a27896) to the same photo.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on April 2, 2005 at 7:50 am

A photo of the ‘New Palace Theatre’ from the Library of Congress collection, taken some time between 1915 and 1925.

The caption reads:

The Birthplace of the Telephone
109 Court St., Boston, Mass.

On the top floor of this building in 1875,
Professor Bell carried on his experiments
and first succeeded in transmitting speech
by electricity.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on March 30, 2005 at 8:45 pm

This 1925 photo (described here) shows the Palace’s marquee (at far left), but unfortunately not much else of the building. Across the street you can also see a vertical sign for the Star Theatre (later renamed Rialto).

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on March 19, 2005 at 9:27 pm

According to an unpublished draft manuscript by Douglas Shand-Tucci entitled The Puritan Muse (available in the Fine Arts room of the Boston Public Library), the Palace opened in 1899. Burlesque shows ended in 1909. The theatre was “destroyed” in 1931. Shand-Tucci doesn’t say how or why this happened.