Old Howard Theatre

Court Street,
Boston, MA 02108

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Showing 1 - 25 of 41 comments

DavidZornig on November 27, 2015 at 2:06 pm

I added David Kruh’s 1953 ticket stub to the Photo’s Section, with his description via the Dirty Old Boston Facebook page.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on July 6, 2015 at 11:52 am

In a Feb. 1903 issue of the New York Clipper, a theatrical trade paper, there is an ad for the Old Howard, listing their show for the week of Feb. 23, 1903. The ad lists the name of their New York representative, and has two slogans: “American’s Oldest Variety and Burlesque Theatre” and “Always Something Doing 1PM to 11PM”. (By 1950 that slogan had change to “…9AM to 11PM” because they started their day with movies at 9AM. The show consisted of 13 vaudeville acts, each act featuring from one to 4 performers, plus “The Three Teasers” Burlesque with a cast of 36. Add in the musicians, stage manager and stage hands and you have to wonder where they had room for all these people backstage (it was not a big theater). Dressing rooms were on the ground floor under the stage. They could have extended this area forward for more room, but there was a business on the ground floor: a brewery/bottling works originally, and restaurants later. (There was no business on the ground floor in the 1950s). The program does not mention movies, but they started showing films right from the start when they first became available in the late-1890s. The NY Clipper is among the show-business trade papers on line in the Media History Digital Library; (free access).

DavidKruh on August 14, 2012 at 4:47 pm

The Hatch family still has several treasures from the OH. They still live in Maine. I have a few bits of ephemera, see my Scollay Square website for my direct contact info, I’d love to chat with you, anyway, about your grandfather and the OH.


somerbd on August 13, 2012 at 6:06 pm

Hello if anyone knows how to get in contact with some with a relic or sign from The Old Howard please let me know. Rufus AL SOmerby was my grand father and he managed in 1930’s and 1940’s thanks

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on May 12, 2012 at 10:41 am

David- It’s always nice to hear that such artifacts have been preserved in good hands.

DavidKruh on May 11, 2012 at 12:33 pm

Ron, I have the answer! I found Richard, who is now retired and living in Florida. We spoke a short while ago and he confirms that yes, he did find the cornerstone and that he sold it – and its contents – to Frank Hatch. I’m sure you’ll agree that mean it is in very good hands, with a family that appreciates the value of the artifacts.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on May 9, 2012 at 11:01 am

David- the contractor was Richard R. Jancaterino, age 34 in 1962, of South Weymouth, married to Elaine. He was self-employed and got 140 tons of granite from the demolition site.

DavidKruh on May 8, 2012 at 1:54 pm

Ron, does it mention the contractor’s name?

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on May 8, 2012 at 11:31 am

The “Patriot Ledger Archives” section of the May 7th Quincy Patriot Ledger has a summary of an article with photo from the Q-PL of May 10, 1962. It seems that a local contractor from Weymouth purchased the granite rubble from the demolition of the Old Howard which was then underway. In a cornerstone, which he claims weighed 9 tons, he found a sealed lead box. There were a number of items in the box including a copy, in good condition, of the Boston Daily Atlas newspaper from 1846. There is no mention of the other items in the box.

DavidKruh on June 18, 2011 at 6:13 pm

Ron is correct. How can we fix this?

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on May 30, 2011 at 6:23 am

This theatre is mapped in the wrong place – on Howard Street in Roxbury, instead of the no-longer-existing Howard Street that was in Scollay Square.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on May 10, 2011 at 11:53 am

The 1906 edition of the Julius Cahn Official Theatrical Guide gives the seating capacity of the Howard as 1,650. Tickets cost 10 cents to 50 cents, and there were 5 members of the pit band.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on March 9, 2011 at 11:17 am

I never heard this anecdote. It would have caused a minor sensation in the Boston Record-American; the Midtown Journal; the Police Gazette. In order to create sparks while tap-dancing Buddy Wade would have had to have been hoofing on a metal surface. Backstage at live theaters in those days there were stand-pipes and fire hoses, fire extinguishers, buckets of sand, brooms, etc. It seems rather far-fetched, although anything is possible.

DavidKruh on March 8, 2011 at 11:36 am


Help solve the Mystery of Buddy Wade

On page 240 of Stripper (Oxford University Press, 2004) Rachel Shteir wrote “Buddy Wade’s tap shoes caught fire, the sparks igniting her costume, and she burned to death one night at the Old Howard in Boston.”

Now Ms. Shteir is unable to recall the source of the story of this tragedy, nor can she remember the date it is alleged to have occurred, and she is unable to find the notes for this book, so I am asking for your help. If you remember when this incident took place, or if you knew Buddy Wade and can confirm (or deny) the facts of this story, I very much want to hear from you. Please email me today.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on February 1, 2011 at 11:56 am

The Howard Anthenaeum is listed at 34 Howard St. in the 1918 Boston Register and Business Directory. On the ground floor at the time was a restaurant run by Andrew MacArthur. I believe that when the theater first opened there was a brewery located in the ground floor space.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on October 29, 2010 at 11:39 am

There is mention of the Old Howard Theatre in the bio “Tony Pastor- Father of Vaudeville” by Armond Fields (McFarland, 2007). Tony Pastor (1838- 1908) was a New Yorker who performed as a child acrobat in traveling circuses. These troupes played in both circus tents and in variety theaters. In early-1849 he and his circus troupe performed at the old Federal Street Theatre in Boston (Federal & Franklin streets, downtown). Later, he became a circus clown, and by 1860 he was a popular singer of comedy songs at variety (vaudeville) theaters. In mid-1863, he and a variety troupe played 6 weeks at the Boston Museum (east side of Tremont Street, north of School St.) In mid-1865, Pastor played at the Morris Brothers Opera House in Boston for 4 weeks. It was the old Horticultural Hall on School Street across from today’s Old City Hall. He played there again in 1866 and 1868.
The Morris Brothers also ran shows at the Melodeon, which later became the Gaiety, site of the Bijou on Washington Street. Pastor may have performed there, too. In Jan 1869, he and his troupe played at the Howard in Boston and then returned there each year, sometimes twice a year (late-spring and early-fall). Tony Pastor was so straight and square that he would never have performed at the Old Howard if there was anything disreputable about it. He presented “family-style” entertainment. During the summer of 1883, his troupe appeared at the Oakland Garden summer theater in Roxbury. It was located somewhere near the rail line which today runs from South Station to Readville via Uphams Corner. His troupe’s last appearance at the Old Howard was in March 1891, after performing there once or twice a year for many seasons.
Pastor was the m.c. and producer at Tony Pastor’s 14th Street Theater in New York (Union Square, Tammany Hall building). He was a famous theatrical personality in the USA in the second-half of the 19th Century. Here in Cinema Treasures there is some info about him on the page for the Metropolitan Theater on E. 14th St in NY, CT # 7628.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on September 20, 2010 at 10:58 am

The Boston Sunday Herald of Sept 19 has a book review for a new book called “Banned in Boston: the Watch and Ward Society’s Crusade against Books, Burlesque and the Social Evil” by Neil Miller of Tufts University. The review includes a nighttime facade photo of a very busy Old Howard in the 1950-era, plus a backstage photo of chorous girls. The book tells the story of the old fuddy-duddy, Yankee society of prune-faced prudes and bluenoses who constantly fought against the Old Howard and other “evils”.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on April 17, 2009 at 11:07 am

The Billboard trade paper has an article in its Sept 8, 1906 edition reporting on the opening of the Fall season in Boston theaters. For the first week in September, the Old Howard had a vaudeville show with no less than 15 acts headed by The Albas, a high-wire circus act. There were singers, dancers, and comedy sketches. Closing the show was the “Howardscope” – movie short subjects on screen.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on December 9, 2006 at 7:53 am

As the Howard Athenaeum, the theatre is listed in the 1897-98 edition of the Julius Cahn Official Theatrical Guide. Unfortunately, there isn’t much information. Ticket prices range from 10 cents to 50 cents. The seating capacity is given as 2,100 — this seems high, and may have included several hundred standing spaces (large numbers of standees were routinely admitted to theatres in those days). The house had both gas and electric illumination. The orchestra consisted of just 2 musicians — how can that be? It was a popular variety theatre at the time. As the “Howard Theatre”, it was also the subject of a MGM Theatre Photograph and Report form. There is an exterior photo taken in May 1941. There was no marquee. There were 3 granite steps leading up to 3 double doors. Above the center door was a sign reading “Old Howard”; on each side of the doors were ancient poster boards with “Howard Athenaeum” at the tops. In the photo, there is a Granny-type climbing the steps. Perhaps she was the bookeeper! The Report states that the house is not a MGM customer; that it was built in 1850 (actually, 1846); that it’s in Poor condition; and has 1,500 seats.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on April 13, 2006 at 7:36 am

In Donald King’s Boston theatres history, mention is made that films of boxing matches came to the Old Howard as early as 1897, using the “Acmegraph” film system. The booking of such movies confirms that the Old Howard became a rowdy, low-brow place of entertainment during the 1890s.

Dorothy on March 13, 2006 at 3:04 am

The following .pdf article, although mainly about Boston’s Gaiety Theater, also includes information on the Old Howard in addition to other burlesque theaters in Boston with references, maps, photos.
Interesting reading!

View link

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on March 2, 2006 at 7:07 am

In the photo which accompanied the article in the Boston Herald mentioned in the above posting, the collector Dave Waller is holding the rounded top of one of the large poster boards which flanked the Old Howard’s entrance. These poster boards were ancient! You can see them in many of the old photos of the lobby entrance. The words “Howard Athenaeum”, the theatre’s original name, are printed on them.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on March 2, 2006 at 1:40 am

Today’s Boston Herald has an article about Dave Waller, who collects large signs that belonged to now-defunct Boston businesses. From the story:

“Waller’s newest addition is a 10-foot-tall, pre-1900 wooden marquee sign from the former Howard Antheneum. The Old Howard, as it was known, opened in 1845 in Scollay Square and later became infamous as a burlesque house. “I’ve always been fascinated with signs from Boston neighborhoods, and Scollay Square is really the Holy Grail, because (the district) was torn down before I was born,” said Waller, who bought the sign from a fellow New Hampshire aficionado who had it stored away.Waller was tipped off to the man by a Herald reader of a recent story about a 1950s- to 1960s-era neon Dunkin’ Donuts sign, which Waller also purchased. ”

The story includes a picture of him holding the Old Howard sign. He’s standing in front another sign he owns, from the Exeter Street Theatre.

Dorothy on February 25, 2006 at 4:04 am

a little story about the Old Howard I discovered on the internet of course:

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on February 19, 2006 at 1:48 am

The Howard Athenaeum is visible on this 1895 map and on this 1928 map. It is on the south side of Howard Street, a small side street running west from Scollay Square.

On the 1928 map you will see the Olympia right next door to the Howard, though the Olympia’s entrance was around the corner on Scollay Square itself.

(warning to dialup users: these map images are quite large and will take a long time to load)