239 Huntington Avenue,
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Previously operated by: George A. Giles Co., Loew's Inc.
Firms: Peabody & Stearns
Previous Names: Chickering Hall, St. James Theatre
This theatre was in Back Bay, located near Symphony Hall, Northeastern University and the New England Conservatory of Music on Huntington Avenue. Its story began in 1901 when the famous piano makers opened the 800-seat Chickering Hall,designed by the architectural firm Peabody & Stearns.
In 1912, the same architectural firm were used to expand the building into the 1,600-seat, St. James Theatre, which presented vaudeville and film, operated by Marcus Loew. In the 1920’s, the theatre metamorphosed into one of Boston’s then popular stock company stages. It resumed as a movie theatre in the 1930’s.
By the 1940’s it had been renamed Uptown Theatre and was operated by the George A. Giles Co. This second run house catered to college students. Its vaudeville days was still in evidence as it had a full stage.
The building was demolished in 1968. The site is now occupied by part of the Christian Science complex.
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Recent comments (view all 71 comments)
I think that when the St. James Th. was built, the auditorium for Chickering Hall may have been demolished for the new theater. Peabody and Stearns kept the original front building on Huntington Avenue and built the theater entrance and lobby in it. The external appearance of the auditorium and stage-house as seen from in back certainly looked to me at the time (circa-1960) like new construction and not an adaptation of the old Chickering Hall.
dickneeds- are you sure you’re thinking of the Uptown? It was gone by 1970-71, and was never twinned. Also, was never a true porno house.
I Am Curious (Yellow) made the rounds of the art-house circuit in the late 60s, so is a plausible film for the Uptown. It came out in 1967, so dickneeds may be misremembering the year rather than the theatre he saw it in.
Or, more likely, he is confusing the Uptown with the Symphony Cinema, a twin which was a block further west on Huntington Ave. and on the opposite side of the street. The comments there make several references to I Am Curious (Yellow).
This aerial photo includes a view from above of the Uptown Theatre, two buildings to the right of Symphony Hall on Huntington Avenue and on the close side of the Christian Science Center. You can make out the marquee as well as the scenery tower at the rear of the building.
With some effort one can also make out Loew’s State on Massachusetts Avenue.
In a 1918 Boston street directory, this theater, as the “St. James Theatre” is listed at 239 Huntington Avenue.
I was very familiar with the area having been born on Hemingway Street. I was only 8 or 9 at the time, but I had a weekly ritual where I went to a used book store near the Uptown to buy used comic books. Then I would go across the street to the Uptown News to get the newest comics. Then it was steamed burgers at Joe & Nemo’s before I would go to meet my grandfather at Crusher Casey’s.
The Strand Theatre was nearby as well, and was considered a step down from the Uptown. Indeed there was a Brigham’s next to the Uptown. Eventually this was merged with a Fanny Farmers, probably one of the earlier attempts at co-branding. I remember the Walton’s nearby having an automat at one point. There was a Howard Johnson’s nearby, but it was furthet up Huntington near Wentworth Institute.
Larcron is correct about there being a used bookshop near the Uptown and the Strand. It was located somewhere between Mechanics Hall and the Uptown on the same side of the street and was a funky old place where I bought old copies of Railroad Magazine and Trains Magazine from the 1940s for only 15 cents each. This was in the mid-and late-1950s. Stores like that gave Boston character, in contrast to the antiseptic, streamlined, expensive upscale $$$stores of today.
Prior to the opening of Chickering Hall on Huntington Avenue in 1901, there was an earlier, smaller Chickering Hall downtown. It was located, as of 1884, at 151 Tremont Street. I’m not sure if it was on the ground floor or upstairs. It had about 450 seats,with a balcony. Down at the right front, next to the stage, there was an exit out to Mason Street in back. An old seating chart says it was at 151 Tremont in the same building as the Chickering Piano sales showroom; but elsewhere on the chart it says “251 Tremont” which cannot be accurate if Mason Street was in back.
I just added a photo.
You are right. It was the Symphony not the Uptown. Sorry for my confusion.