Sunday, March 11, 2007

Wollaston Theatre - A Local Treasure

*Updated 6/28/2016* 
Very sad news. See most recent post about the Wollaston Theatre demolition. 💣



You know those beautiful old theaters in small town America that are gently and patiently preserved over time with love as little morsels of history. Well, unfortunately that is not what appears to be happening with the Wollaston Theatre.

I saw a movie there around ten years ago. I think it was "The English Patient." I ended up not liking the movie. I know, I'm the only one in the country who didn't like the movie, except for Elaine from Seinfeld. I just looked it up and it actually won the Academey Award for Best Picture in 1996. But anyway, I loved the theater. It was beautiful, old, and majestic, but on its last leg. Chairs needed repairs. It was very worn, but could be restored to its former glory with some work. I always thought that some historical society or someone would fix it up.


I've been doing some research trying to find out more about this lovely movie house and have learned a few things. There is an interesting website called Cinema Treasures, where you can find information about these movie houses all over the country. The listing for Wollaston Theatre has a comment section, where starting in March of 2004, people have been writing their memories and sharing information about the "Wolly." As of this writing, the last comment was written a little over a month ago. I may add a comment myself.

The theater was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1989 (Building - #89001315) and the architectural style is Classical Revival. I took some pictures earlier this evening, just before sunset, which now is around 7:00. You gotta love Daylight Savings Time!

A Historical and Architectural Survey was done, which provides more information about
Wollaston Theatre.
"The Wollaston Theatre is a well-loved aspect of Wollaston community life and every effort should be made to insure its preservation. It was built as a 1259-seat legitimate theatre at a cost of $90,000 in 1926. The original owner was W. W. Wilson, a Wollaston realtor, but he sold it to the well-known contractor Edward H. Sears, who had actually built the building, by 1932. The architect for the building is listed as "James Tucker" which may be James A. Tuck of Boston. In between 1930 and 1935, the structure was converted to a movie theatre. In an amazing example of longevity of ownership, the Sears retained the theatre until 1977 when they sold it to the present owner, Arthur Chandler."

I don't know what Mr. Chandler's plans for the building are now, but I do hope that he or whoever is in charge would do what the survey has recommended and preserve it. Quincy is full of so much history, which is one of the reasons I love living here. This little theater is part of that history and could be a vital part of the community once again.

Based on what I saw of the comments about the theater, many people are interested in seeing the theater preserved and seem willing to work toward that goal. If there are grants that could be used to pay for the work, it looks like there could be many volunteers, myself included.


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41 comments:

BipolarLawyerCook said...

Anali, I HATED The English Patient. You're not alone. Thanks for the heads up on the Wolly. I don't live too far away-- I will have to check it out.

We used to live in W. Mass., and Northampton has a beautifully restored theater, the Academy of Music, that doubles as the art house movie theater. Greenfield has a downtown movie theater as well-- it's a little shabby around the edges, but we enjoyed going to a downtown theater, rather than a multiplex.

starry nights said...

Anali I thought the English patient was way too long.Not one of my favs either.There are not many old time movie theatres left.

Sanjay said...

Interesting post. I loved reading about the theatre. Talking about cinema trasures, that is where I found something about York Square Cinemas in New Haven which I used to love and closed in July '05. But I found another local gem here in Bryn Mawr in PA. There is more on it, in my post today. :)

Asha said...

Look at that!! Even the doors look elegant!! Isn't it sad so many old theaters are closed?!
There were some here,closed them and now they are converted into 1000th church with already growing numbers of churches everywhere!!

Rhea said...

Glad you found the Cinema Treasures site. There are also funds to help save old movie theatres. You can find them on the Internet. I love old movie theatres. It's possible to make them thrive. I live not too far from the Coolidge Corner (Brookline) Theatre, which has been preserved beautifully.

oddjob60 said...

I lived just up the street from the Wollaston Theater in the late 80's, and it's were my not-yet-wife and I saw the first Bond movie with Timothy Dalton. Not the best movie experience, and as I recall the theater was clammy and not too pleasant either. I'm sad that nothing appears to have been done to help in the last 20 years...

amisha said...

i love those old theatres... fingers crossed that yours is preserved. there was one in downtown new orleans, the saenger, that was so stunningly beautiful. gorgeous details all around. they would show concerts and plays there... sadly on my last visit it looked like it was destroyed in the storm.

Suldog said...

Oh, what I wouldn't give to have had someone preserve the Oriental in Mattapan, the movie house of my youth! I don't think there are even any photos of it.

I've seen a couple of shows at the Wollaston, when they were running $1 nights a few years back. Yes, it was definitely in serious disrepair, but it was still a swell place to see a movie.

Lewis said...

I saw a few movies at the Wollaston Theater. I remember catching "Star Wars" there when it finally made the small theater rounds in the late 70's.

I wish they preserved the one in East Milton Square too.

Anali said...

bipolarlawyercook - I'm glad I wasn't the only one! I'll never understand all the hype about it. Unfortunately the Wolly is closed, which is why it's so sad. It's just sitting there wasting away.

starry nights - Well, I guess a few of us didn't like the movie! They are disappearing, but at least there seems to be a movement to try and save some of them.

sanjay - I liked your post! So funny that we touched on similar topics at almost the same time.

asha - The doors are pretty aren't they? I didn't know they were being converted to churches. That seems odd. Oh well...

rhea - Welcome! I love the Coolidge Corner Theatre. I try and make it over there a few times a year, but I haven't been there in a while.

From what I have read, it appears that the owner isn't willing to do anything. I guess he says that he is working on it, but then nothing happens. And it's been the same story for years and years. Without a willing owner, all the money in the world won't matter.

oddjob60 - Welcome! Such a small world! The theater could be really nice now if it had been taken care of. I guess there is still hope.

amisha - Such a shame about the Saenger being destroyed. I hope they can rebuild it.

suldog - I've never heard of the Oriental. I'll have to look it up on that website.

lewis - Welcome! It's so cool hearing about all the different movies that people saw there. Thanks!

Nance said...

anali--I hated The English Patient! I thought almost all of the characters were loathsome. BUT--it did have one of the best vertical fornication scenes ever in the history of cinema. Hee hee!

Anali said...

nance - I knew you had good taste! I don't remember that scene though. I think that I might have actually fallen asleep!

Mosilager said...

I watched the first 10 minutes of the english patient and got extremely bored. so none of that for me.

It's really nice to see these old buildings hanging around if they are maintained well. Can walk around and imagine what it would have been like if we had lived in those times.

Anali said...

mosilager - It is so refreshing to hear how so many people did not like that movie!

And I also love that feeling of walking around places and trying to picture what it would have been like in other times. I think that's why I like old cities and old books...

Lisa Francisco said...

Anali,

WHO THE HELL ARE YOU!!!! hehehe...:) Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I love meeting new people in this blog world.

Regarding preserving the theater, I think you have a chance. The same thing happened in my old neighborhood about 2 years ago. There was this little no named theater that had been there for years with some history to it. It was about to be demolished until the people in the neighborhood, volunteered, donated and did whatever they could and they got it to stay! It was renovated and people go to it again. Mind you it's not like the big theaters with all the patronage but it's cool to have. It only shows indies and a couple of big movies but rarely.
Anyhow, just be tidbit to give you some hope with your neighborhood theater.

Come back and post! :)

Lisa

Anali said...

lisa francisco - LOL! You are too funny! Welcome!

That's exactly the kind of story I like to hear. That's wonderful! It's nice to know there is always hope. And I'll be stopping by again. : )

Lotus Reads said...

You and Sanjay have me wanting to go and explore all Toronto's historic theaters..perhaps I'll do just that one of these days.

Lovely pictures, lovely post.

It's funny how in Canada we spell it as theatre and in the US it is theater! :)

Anali said...

lotus reads - I've been agonizing over the spelling too! I've been inconsistent in the post, because the actual place name is spelled with the "re" but normally it is "er." Oh well! : )

Anonymous said...

Hi,
As a lifelong Wollaston resident I too would love to see Arty Chandler re-open the Wolly. Growing up we used to enjoy the Monday and Tuesday "Buck nights" where the movie was a dollar on each of those nights (this was after it was actually Mens nights on Mondays and Womans nights on Tuesdays). Growing up in the 80's I heard the stories about how the Wolly was trashed by kids who saw the movie The Warriors and then when it re-opened a year later after being renovated kids trashed it again on the opening night of Led Zeppelin's "The Song Remains the Same" concert film (I may have the order backwards of which movie was out first etc.). Great theatre with a ton of potential if the city were able to work with Arthur Chandler to bring the building up to code to re-open as an affordable movie theatre.

Anali said...

anonymous - Welcome! I'd never heard of the "Buck nights" or the men and women's nights. Those must have been fun. It's such a shame that kids would destroy such a great place. I do hope that something can be done to re-open the theatre too.

Anonymous said...

Hey Anali,

I grew up just east of the theatre (29 Beach street - about a block away) in the 60's. My family moved to Arizona in 72.

I remember seeing tons of movies there. The earliest one I remember is "Butch Casidy and the Sundance Kid" in 68. The theatre was old and beat-up back then, but I loved the place. My neighbor used to work there and I'd go in on Saturday afternoons sometimes and help him clean up. That place is big-old and scary when you're 10 and theres only a couple of people in it!

Came back on vacation in 87 and saw "The Color of Money" (Paul Newman flicks seems to be a recurring theme between me and the Wolly). The week my family moved, me, my best friend and a few other people saw "Whats Up Doc" with Barbra Striesand and Ryan Oneal and the Posideon Adventure 6 out of 7 nights that week. . . . same 2 movies 6 nights in a row.

Thanks a bunch for putting this site up and reviving a few very fond childhood memories for me. I truly hope someone resurrects the place. In this world of fast food and souless Cineplexes, the Wolly is a welcome reminder of a much simpler more enjoyable time.

Thanks Again
Howard

Anali said...

howard - Welcome! Interesting Paul Newman theme you have going there. : ) Thank you for adding to the history lesson that I've been getting here. So many people have memories of the Wolly. Maybe something good will happen.

Anonymous said...

I saw my first movie at the Wollaston Theater in the 1950s. One of the stories at the time was that the films were always deliberately shown out of focus, because the manager of the theater also was the town optometrist, who wanted to convince the audience they all needed new glasses.

In the 1960s the theater used to have live performances between or after horror movies during Hallowe'en season, with people dressed up as monsters stumbling around the stage. There was even an on-stage appearance there once ot Tiny Tim, after his fame and fortune were in decline and he was on personal tour across America.

Anali said...

anonymous - Welcome! That is hilarious about the optometrist! Quite a creative way to drum up business. Live performances must have been fun. I remember Tiny Tim! Did he tip toe through the tulips on stage? ; )

Anonymous said...

I live about five blocks from Wollaston Theater, it has ALWAYS been my dream to buy it and restore it to its original state, have both live shows and movies. If I only had he money. The theater has been empty for so many years now I'm sure the mice have taken over. I had heard that someone did approach Mr Chandler about purchasing the theater, but he said no. Seem rather odd to me. I would be first in line to volunteer to assist in restoring it if enough people were interested.

Anali said...

anonymous - Welcome! It seems that so many of us want to see this theater come back to life. Maybe there is some momentum building? We will have a new mayor soon...

sognatrice said...

I love old theaters! There used to be one in the town next to mine back in PA but it was torn down to put in...a CVS. Argh! It's where I saw my first movie, ET; actually I saw it twice because after I saw it the first time, I bugged my mom to take me too. She didn't know I had already seen it! Hah!

When I lived in Philly, my friends and I used to frequent a grand old theater whose name is escaping me...ah! This is going to bother me now. We used to do the Saturday matinees because it was so darn cheap and we usually had the theater to ourselves. The bathrooms downstairs were a bit creepy, but that's part of the fun of an old theater methinks ;)

Thanks for bringing up some great memories!

sognatrice said...

Ah, I forgot! I have tried to watch The English Patient three times and never stayed awake through more than half of it. Guess I don't like it either ;)

Anali said...

sognatrice - You could probably find the name of the theater if you search on the website that I linked to in this post. And I was glad to hear that I wasn't the only one who couldn't stand that movie!

Richard said...

Hi, The new mayor of Quincy has indeed expressed interest in preserving the Wollaston Theatre. He is looking for it to become a cultural center where the local performing arts groups(Quincy Symphony, Quincy Choral Society, ENC Chorale , etc) can perform. I think he may be able to pull something together. It would certainly be an interesting space to use for such events, as well as Somerville theatre-type entertainment. It will lilely take a public- private effort. Keep an eye on the Lrdger and Quincy Sun for any opportunties to get involved. I still live in Quincy and am very interested in seeing that grand old theatre reopened for both movies and live entertainment.

Anali said...

Richard - Welcome! And thank you for dropping by with such good news! I'll have to keep my eyes open. ; )

Anonymous said...

I grew up in Wollaston, live in Fort Lauderdale now but remember going to the Saturday matinee at this theater back in the 60's for 50 cents. 25 to get in and 25 for candy. Thanks for the memories ! ! !

Anali said...

anonymous - Welcome! I'm glad that I brought back good memories for you! I guess you probably don't miss the cold weather though! : )

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Anali for your posts. It was because of you that I knew that the mayor was committed to re-opening the theater. Now I am on the committee to get the Wollaston back up and running. Right now we're looking for funding and volunteers.

Anali said...

anonymous - Welcome! I'm glad that I was able to help! Can you email me some information? Depending upon the time required, I'm interested in volunteering too.

Natalie said...

I'd like to volunteer too! please post info!

Anali said...

natalie - Welcome! So far I don't have any new information, but hopefully I'll be able to find out something. I'll post again when I have news. Thanks for stopping by! : )

Anonymous said...

Hi. Sorry I didn't post back. We're working on trying to acquire the building. I love that you'd like to volunteer. The first order of business will be making the theater usable (lots of sweat!) and organizing volunteers.

I'll post again when I have news.

Anali said...

anonymous - Thanks for the update!

chipNdale said...

Its now been sold to a grocery ownery. No idea what he will do. Time will tell.

Lisa Johnson said...

chipNdale - I think I read something like that a while ago. It's horrible that things are in limbo like this. I hope something positive will happen soon.

 
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