123 E. Main Street,
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Previously operated by: E.M. Loew's Theaters Inc.
Firms: Leon H. Lempert & Son
Previous Names: Cook Opera House, Family Theatre
A theatre had existed on this South Avenue site since the 1860’s. The first theatre built on this spot was destroyed by fire in the 1890’s and replaced with a new theatre by the name of the Cook Opera House which opened January 14, 1892 with “Pinafore” . Under this name it hosted such stars as Buffalo Bill and Sarah Bernhardt.
The interior was a fairly elaborate late-Victorian opera house with two horseshoe shaped balconies. The five story facade was topped with a frieze spelling out the theatre’s name, underneath which was a row of terra cotta busts depicting characters from the opera “Faust”.
From October 12, 1912 it began playing aKeith Vaudeville and was renamed Family Theatre. By 1924 it was screening movies. I was the last holdout in Rochester to show silent movies when talkies were sweeping all before them and converted to talkies but closed in 1932. Taken over by E.M. Loew’s Theatres it reopened on January 8, 1937 the theatre became the Embassy Theatre, which was mainly known for its burlesque shows.
The theatre was closed in the 1952 and remained a well preserved, but shuttered, building until the 1980’s, when city began eyeing the site for a new convention center. While the convention center was being opposed by local citizens interested in restoring Cook’s Opera House and reopening, it a fire of “mysterious origin” swept through the structure and destroyed it on May 17, 1974, causing Rochester to lose it’s final 19th century theatre, remaining in near original condition.
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