Saturday, February 7, 2009

Niagara Falls Then and Now: the Queen - Capitol Theatre

above: an ad in the Niagara Falls Review from Apr.12, 1938, showing that 'Mannequin' starring Joan Crawford and Spencer Tracy was playing at the Capitol theatre, with Wallace Beery's 'The Bad Man of Brimstone' coming up. It was on Apr.12, 1938 that a large part of the Honeymoon Bridge sank in the Niagara River. The bridge had collapsed onto the frozen Niagara River back in Jan.1938, and sat on top of the ice until it began to melt in April. The next day, on Apr.13, 1938, the rest of the bridge floated downriver, remaining on top of the ice-pack until it finally sank about a mile downstream!
above: the proposed view of the Queen Theatre as seen in the Niagara Falls Daily Record, Oct.2, 1912. It was located at 461 Queen St.
below: this photo from the Niagara Falls Library, said to be taken in 1920, shows the Queen Theatre on the north-east corner of Queen St. and St. Clair Ave, in Niagara Falls, Ont. The theatre was built in 1913 by A.A. Huttelmayer.  Interestingly, there was an Albert Huttelmayer who in 1911 was the manager (or owner?) the Sheldon theatre in Buffalo, at 646-648 Walden Ave. This has to be the same guy who built the Queen theatre two years later; I wonder if the two theatres were part of a chain? Can't find much info on this entrepreneur or on the Sheldon either.
A poster for "The Goddess" is advertised over the door - I wonder if this is the Vitagraph film series starring the prolific silent stars Anita Stewart (as Celestia) and Earle Williams? The Goddess was released in 1915 as a 15 part serial, so I wonder if these episodes were still being played here, 5 years later. At the left is an ad for the comedic duo "Ham and Bud" - starring the tall Lloyd Hamilton and the short Bud Duncan. They released a spate of one-reel films with the Kalem Company during 1915 to 1917, after which their act was split up. So again, if this photo is actually from 1920, then the theatre was playing a Ham and Bud film which would have already been 3 or more years old. It may be that this photo is not from 1920 at all, but could be even from 1915 - when episodes of both The Goddess and Ham and Bud were freshly released. But again, maybe this wasn't a first run movie house, and they were playing older films as they got them - it would be interesting to find out which film circuit this theatre was on. An interesting coincidence concerning the companies that made these two films advertised on the posters in this photo, is that the Vitagraph company bought out the Kalem company in 1917.  Also, note that to the right (east) houses - still with front lawns! - can be seen facing onto Queen St.. It was on that lawn next door that a new Woolworth's would be built in the 30's, it was already there in 1932. below: same corner, May 1925. The Queen Theater shows a new canopied marquee.
below: same view, as seen on Jun.14, 1964. By then called the Capitol Theatre, the former Queen Theatre building was demolished during July-Aug. 1964. At that time, the neighbouring building at the right (where the homes with the front lawns were seen previously) was the deco-style Woolworth's building.
below: 1964 - an interior view of the Capitol Theatre's screen curtain, with advertisements for local businesses.

At the left were ads for "Niagara Falls City Dairy"; "Criger's Garage and Machine Shop"; "The Evening Review, only daily in Welland County"; "The Electric Shop" at 1863 Ferry St., which advertised "The General Electric refrigerator is here"; "Harvey Markle Coal Co. Ltd." at 249 Park St., which advertised "Jeddo, Scranton, Lehigh Smokeless, and Cannel" coal, and "good coke"; and "Spring Water Bottling Works" reminded patrons to "order a case today" at 1730 Ferry St., or by dailing "539" (!!) on the telephone. (Click on photos to enlarge!)
above: at the centre were ads from "Glasgow Shoe Parlors" at 301 Queen St., "opposite City Hall"; "Bouck Bros." advertised "Siebeling All-Tread Tires", as well as that they were dealers for "Chevrolet Oldmobile and Oakland cars, Victoria and Huron Sts."; "The Home Beautiful Shop" at Welland and Queen St. advertised "Window Shades and Draperies of Every Description".

At the right were ads from: "J.K. Stout Haulage"; "Pew's Drugs...opposite theatre"; "Dobbie's" had "flower gifts of love, sympathy, appreciation by wire, no matter how far, phone 45"; "Fenwick's Hardware"; what possibly read 'Frontier Printing Co.', "Commercial and Society Printers...not large, but always busy", at 245 (or 243?) Park St.; and "Walker Stores. Ltd." on Queen was advertising "Puritan Maid Hosiery".
below: The library dates this photo of the Capitol Theatre as Mar.16, 1965, but, the theatre had already been torn down in the summer of 1964 (!!). The marquee shown is still the older rounded one, and to the east we can see that Woolworth's is already there. When was movie star Jack Oakie popular? Well: then this could possibly be anywhere from the mid-thirties to the mid-fifties! Seeing as the streetcar tracks are still in place on Queen St., then the date can at least be narrowed somewhat to be from before the mid-1940's. For example, Jack Oakie co-starred with Fred MacMurray in the movie "Champagne Waltz", which opened at the Capitol on Apr.12, 1937 - maybe this photo was from 1937!
above: this shot, taken Jan.8, 1958, shows the Capitol Theater as having an angled marquee at that time, as compared to the earlier rounded one. This view looks north up St. Clair Ave., across Queen St., towards Park St. in the distance.
above: colour view, date unknown, the old Capitol Theater building prior to demolition. (possibly summer 1964?)
above: Oct.4, 1964, same view as above - the vacant corner site where the former Capitol Theater once stood. Note the Woolworth building's west side wall was fully revealed for the first time since it had been built in the early 1930's. Interestingly, there are clearly windows seen on both the first and second storeys of the building, which had faced the former theater's wall. There must have been a narrow gap between the walls of the Woolworth's and the theater, possibly to allow for an emergency fire egress for theater patrons. {otherwise, when Woolworth's was building their new structure, why would they place windows directly facing a brick wall? So, there must of been some kind of narrow passageway there on the Capitol Theater side, where Woolworth's could still install usable windows on its building, if not to get a view, but at least for ventilation purposes.}
It seems that when the new bank was later built, its wall was built right up to the Woolworth's wall, thereby blocking those main floor Woolworth side windows which were closer to Queen St., and possibly also full blocking the second storey windows as well.  Even in the 1964 photo, it clearly shows that the street level side windows were already bricked in, but the second floor windows still had glass.There is a chance that the second story windows were not completely covered up and ended up still partially above the new bank's actual roof.
above: Mar.18, 1965 - the 'new'  Lincoln Trust building on the site of the former Queen/Capitol Theatre; to the right (east) is the Woolworth's store. At the far left are seen ladders and work equipment.

above: colour view, date unknown; the 'new' Lincoln Trust now has some landscaping seen at the left. The letter "W" of the red Woolworth's sign is seen at the right, above the striped canvas canopy.
above: same view, Dec.22, 2008, photo by R. Bobak. Now known as the TD Canada Trust building, the original angled roof-edge fascia has been squared-off and covered. The old Woolworth's building still stands next door, but the store had long since closed. For most of the nineties, the former Woolworth's space had been turned into a nightclub, and currently, as of Feb.2009, still sits vacant. A dinner theatre is possibly in store for the location. {"The Buttery" restaurant eventually moved into the space, but unfortunately the business soon closed. The Buttery had formerly been located in Niagara On The Lake, in the building which (as of 2015) now houses Corks Restaurant.}

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