1710 W. Susquehenna Avenue,
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Architects: David Supowitz
Styles: Streamline Moderne
Previous Names: Susquehanna Theatre
The Senate Theatre was a long-running neighborhood movie house that operated for over 50 years and had opened in the silent era as the Susquehanna Theatre. The address of the former Senate / Susquehanna Theatre was well known to many Philadelphia residents. It was the former home of the Model Livery and Boarding Stable where pre-auto era residents had their carriages washed and their horses fitted and boarded. The stable adjoined the Claghorn School. But entering the 1910’s, the livery business was down-trending and the movie industry was surging.
William Cohen, Margaret Donohue and the Susquehanna Amusement Co. opened the 500-seat venue in 1913 at 1708-1712 West Susquehanna Avenue. (The address used most frequently was the 1710 number.) The venue was targeted at $12,000 for the structure and $40,000 in total – a low-priced theatre even for the day. It was equipped with a Moeller 2 manual 11 ranks organ. Protests about the operation of the theatre so close to the school were noted but ultimately went unheeded. Less than a year later, Harry Green and A.E. Altman, who were building the Norris Theatre at the same time as the Susquehanna Theatre, purchased the lease of the operation in May of 1914. It was Green and Altman’s fourth theatre along with the Norris Theatre, Aurora Theatre and the recently-purchased Cambria Theatre.
The Susquehanna Theatre programmed World War I hits, “To Hell with the Kasier” and “The Beast of Berlin” to large crowds. The theatre was equipped for sound to remain viable. Under new operators, the theatre was totally updated to the plans of David Supowitz as a Streamline Moderne style venue and with a new name Senate Theatre. It opened on September 12, 1939 with Ann Sheridan in “Naughty But Nice". Jacob Blumberg ran the Senate Theatre, President Theatre, and Venice Theatre until his death in 1948. James Floyd took on the venue. Under yet new operators and another refresh, the theatre opened with a continuous, “grind” policy on April 1, 1956 with a double feature of “Hell on Frisco Bay” and “The 3 Bad Sisters". The theatre could now play widescreen features.
Manager Adolph Zieffert made the news in 1961 when during “The Big Show,” two robbers tied him up to make off with the loot. The Claghorn School finally got its wish when the Senate Theatre went out of business with Mark Richmond in “Agent from H.A.R.M". and Terence Morgan in “The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb” supported by Chapter Eight of the serial, “Captain Video: Master of the Stratosphere” at end of lease on February 27, 1966. Just a few years later, the Claghorn School also departed. The theatre was converted into stores before it was later razed and in June 2019 it was a parking lot. The Susquehanna Business District still exists there in the 2020’s minus the Senate Theatre.
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