One block from Rittenhouse Square, on Chestnut Street between 19th St and 20th St, in 1928 was built a remarkable building – The Boyd Theatre. Philadelphia’s last movie palace was called the Sam Eric when it closed in May, 2002. In 2015, most of the auditorium has been lost for redevelopment, but the Chestnut Street facade and lobbies remain.
Help us continue to advocate the restoration of the surviving portions of this Philadelphia landmark and help us to publicize its long and wonderful history.
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Friends of the Boyd was founded in 2002 to advocate for the restoration and reuse of Philadelphia’s last movie palace, the Boyd Theatre at 1908 Chestnut Street. Now, with the theatre’s substantial demolition in 2015, we continue to document and publicize the long wonderful history of the Boyd and to emphasize the need for restoration and continued use of the surviving Chestnut Street facade and Grand Lobby. We work to ensure that artifacts from the Boyd not reused on site find appropriate new homes, such as with other historic theaters or museums, and we continue to advocate for improvements to the City’s historic-preservation process.
The fabulous 2 story Art Deco mirrors of the Boyd’s Foyer and the Art Deco marble fountain set in the center mirror were donated to Friends of the Boyd so we can find them new homes such as other historic theaters or museums! The 3 vibrantly colored Art Deco mirrors of the Boyd Theatre’s Foyer are carved, sandblasted, etched, and spectacular. Each mirror has a top panel depicting the theater curtain. Nature & Art Deco geometric designs are also depicted in the mirrors. As you know, the remaining part of the Boyd’s auditorium including the foyer will be demolished to make way for a residential tower.
This past week, on behalf of Friends of the Boyd, Inc, Evergreene Architectural Arts removed the items, a complicated procedure that involved scaffolding, removing the plywood that covered them since 2006, bringing down the huge ornate panes of glass, and dismantling the fountain. Jeff Greene has long been familiar with the Boyd, testified for us last year, and was designated last year as the Historic Preservation Consultant by the parties that were only going to keep the Boyd’s facade, because his outfit is one of our nation’s top restorers and craftsmen. Thanks to Pearl Properties for allowing access and for the donation. There’s keen interest by theaters and museums in these spectacular irreplaceable works of long gone craftsmen, so we know we will find them great new locations, just as we will for other items such as the Monel panels and other fixtures if they are not reused on site.
October 27, 2015 Historical Commission Hearing on the Boyd Site
The Philadelphia Historical Commission’s Architectural Committee on Tuesday, October 27 at 9 AM at 578 City Hall will hear revised Pearl Properties plans for the Boyd Theatre site. Due to a scheduling conflict, Friends of the Boyd President Howard B. Haas cannot be there but issued this statement:
Friends of the Boyd had advocated to save the Foyer, but the Foyer and the surviving section of the auditorium wing that is towards Sansom St will be demolished for the new residential tower. Fortunately, Pearl has assured us that if not reused on site, artifacts from the Boyd including items already offsite such as light fixtures and Monel panels, as well as the 2 story Foyer mirrors & fountain, will be donated to Friends of the Boyd so we can find them appropriate new locations such as other theaters. We’ve also discussed the possibility of exhibits of the Boyd’s history onsite. Friends of the Boyd are eager to see the Chestnut St facade restored and we hope the Boyd’s Grand Lobby will also be restored.
Howard B. Haas
President, Friends of the Boyd, Inc.
March 14, 2015 Pearl Properties Begins Demolition of Boyd’s Auditorium. Some of Boyd to be Kept
In late October, 2014, Pearl Properties purchased the Boyd from Live Nation for $4.5 million, the same amount Friends of the Boyd offered earlier in the year. Developer Neal Rodin did not purchase the Boyd for redevelopment by iPiC Theaters.
Pearl Properties informed our allies the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia that rather than keep only the Chestnut Street facade and small Ticket Lobby, the Grand Lobby and the Foyer that runs from the lobby to Sansom Street will also be kept.
Pearl informed us they would honor our Settlement Agreement and had retrieved the original Art Deco artifacts from the auditorium that were listed in the Agreement.
Demolition of the Boyd’s auditorium (except for the Foyer at its rear) began Saturday March 14, 2015, exactly one year after the Philadelphia Historical Commission granted permission. The reuse of the surviving and demolished sections has not been announced, but Pearl last year proposed a 26 story tower adjoining the Boyd at 1900 Chestnut. It is with the acquisition of the Boyd that zoning permission for such a tower will be in place.
April 3, 2014 Settlement Agreement regarding the Boyd Theatre & our new Mission
Despite the commitment of funds so that Friends of the Boyd offered the purchase price to save the Boyd Theatre, on March 14, 2014, the Philadelphia Historical Commission approved the economic hardship application of Boyd owner Live Nation and iPiC to allow demolition of the Boyd Theatre except its facade and outdoor pedestrian courtyard. Live Nation began to gut the Boyd’s auditorium on March 17, 2014.
On April 3, 2014, Friends of the Boyd (FOB) and our allies, the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia (the Alliance) entered into a written agreement with Boyd owner Live Nation, the Rodin Group (who will purchase the Boyd), and iPic which plans to build 8 new movie auditoriums. Because appeals, if successful, would have protected only the exterior walls of what would have become an empty space, FOB & the Alliance agreed to not appeal in order to save as many interior Art Deco features as possible. Major terms include the following:
- A Historic Preservation Consultant will inventory the Boyd’s interior. Original Art Deco artifacts such as the 2 story mirrors will be properly refurbished and reused onsite or if not reused for the new project (or if over time, use is no longer desired) will be donated as FOB & the Alliance direct, such as to a museum or another historic theater.
- FOB & the Alliance will be consulted regarding an installation of exhibits of the Boyd’s history.
- An easement to the Boyd’s surviving facade will be provided to ensure future preservation.
FOB and the Alliance are not endorsing the Boyd’s destruction or the iPic that will arise in its place. Both organizations will advocate changes to the historic preservation process as we don’t believe the process functioned adequately in regard to the Boyd. FOB will continue to document the Boyd’s long & wonderful history here and at our Facebook page.
FOB waged a 12 year battle for the Boyd, almost having success three times- when Clear Channel purchased the Boyd to restore and reopen it (but then decided to exit the theater business), when developer Hal Wheeler planned to restore it and combine it with a new hotel (but then he suddenly died), and when a foundation provided a grant commitment that would’ve enabled FOB to purchase the Boyd. We thank our many supporters & ask you to continue with us as it is important to Remember the Boyd!
December 10, 2013 Rally at the Boyd Theatre
Friends of the Boyd supporters braved a snowstorm to rally in front of the Boyd on December 10, 2013 from 11:30 AM to 1 PM. Howard B. Haas, president of the Friends of the Boyd spoke on the importance of preserving the Boyd’s grand auditorium and other spaces rather than allowing iPic to demolish all but the facade. Caroline Boyce, Executive Director of The Preservation Alliance for Greater announced the 2013 Endangered Properties list, including the Boyd, which is prominently pictured on the cover of the printed publication. The Preservation Alliance’s recommendation is as follows:
Philadelphia deserves a creative and forward-thinking restoration plan for the Boyd Theatre and its one-of-a-kind auditorium and lobbies. Any plan that proposes the complete demolition of these spaces is a shortsighted approach to one of Center City’s most potentially transformative sites. Demolition requires the approval of the Historical Commission, which must first conclude that the theater cannot be adapted for any other use. Numerous examples of successful theater conversions across the country can be studied for viable alternative reuse proposals that would preserve the Jazz Age splendor of the theater.
October 3, 2013: BOYD THEATRE THREATENED WITH DEMOLITION
iPiC Theaters wishes to replace most of the Boyd Theatre with a new multiplex. Friends of the Boyd wish iPiC to build that somewhere else so the Boyd’s interior can survive and be restored to its 1928 design and reopen as a mixed use showplace.
June 17, 2011 Join Friends of the Boyd at Facebook
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Thanks to Friends of the Boyd volunteer Amber Lauletta for creating the Facebook page.
February 9, 2011 Historic Movie Theaters of Center City article featuring the Boyd
The PhillyHistory Blog, a project of the Philadelphia City Archive, posted on February 9, 2011 a great article on the history of Philadelphia’s Movie Theaters, using historic images from their collection.
The Boyd is prominently featured. The essay, written by Shawn Evans, AIA, was adapted from the Friends of the Boyd powerpoint presentation (also prepared by Shawn), which has been frequently shown through the years to build awareness of our mission. One of the most compelling parts of our presentation is the history of Philadelphia’s Center City movie palaces, of which the Boyd is the last.
Seeing these wonderful photographs of Philadelphia’s lost movie palaces reinforces why it is so important to save the Boyd. As Irvin Glazer said so well in the introduction to his book, Philadelphia Theaters: A Pictorial Architectural History, “The movie palace was perhaps the most important new type of building introduced in the twentieth Century. Its advent marked the first time in architectural history that ornate and costly structures were conceived and executed primarily for the service of the common man.” Though a remarkable building in its own right as a physical edifice, the Boyd is significant because of the remarkable experiences it gave the millions of people who sat in its seats until just a few years ago. For all of these people, the Friends of the Boyd continue our work to advocate for the preservation and full restoration of this historical treasure.
August 8, 2008: Philadelphia Historical Commission Designates Boyd Theatre
By a unanimous 14 to 0 vote on August 8, 2008, the Philadelphia Historical Commission voted to add the Boyd Theatre to the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places. Friends of the Boyd supporters overflowed the room. Experts and advocates testified on the importance of the Boyd at the July 16, 2008 hearing of the Commission’s Designation Committee, which voted 7 to 0 in favor. Friends of the Boyd president Howard Haas asserted the Boyd Theatre long ago should have been designated. “It has a beautiful art deco exterior with many original decorative elements intact. It’s about time it was recognized as a landmark.” The Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia filed the nomination on May 28, 2008. On May 29, 2008, Philadelphia’s Mayor Michael Nutter announced his support for the nomination and pledged to work to preserve the building. Click here to read the Mayor’s statement.
This designation protects only the theater’s exterior. This action does not ensure the exterior and interior will be restored to their original Art Deco splendor and the Boyd reopened for public entertainment. A new owner and restoration funding will be needed for that to happen. There’s more work to do!
Tuesday, May 20, 2008: Boyd Theatre Designated One of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places
The National Trust for Historic Preservation on May 20, 2008, listed the Boyd Theatre as
one of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.
Boyd Theatre, Philadelphia, Pa. – Philadelphia’s last surviving downtown movie palace “a masterpiece of Art Deco design” faces an uncertain future as it sits vacant and remains vulnerable to demolition, awaiting a preservation-minded buyer to return the vintage venue to its original grandeur.
Since they began the list in 1988, the National Trust has listed only one other Philadelphia site: Independence National Historical Park. Howard B. Haas, President of the Friends of the Boyd stated “The National Trust listing verifies what Friends of the Boyd have said all along – the Boyd Theatre must be saved, restored, and reopened for entertainment.”
March 2008: Boyd Theatre Designated One of Philadelphia’s Most Endangered Historic Properties
The Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia has named the Boyd Theatre to their Fifth Annual Endangered Properties List, mailed out in March 2008. The Alliance’s statement begins
Built in 1928, the Boyd Theatre is the last surviving motion picture palace in Philadelphia.
Acclaimed as one of the world’s first exuberant Art Deco-style theatres, the Boyd is one of Philadelphia’s most important twentieth century entertainment landmarks.
The proposed SOLUTION is that Live Nation:
Agree to sell only to a buyer committed to preserving the theater. Mayor Nutter should make the preservation of the Boyd Theater a top economic priority of his administration. This would include exploring the potential for tax increment financing or the formation of a non-profit/private partnership to create eligibility for state Redevelopment Grant assistance.
Citation from Pennsylvania House of Representatives in 2004
Thanks to State Representative Babette Josephs, for obtaining a Citation from the Pennsylvania House of Representatives commending the Boyd Theatre for its exquisite Art Deco interior, its history of hosting film premieres, and for symbolizing the plight of historic urban motion picture palaces in Philadelphia and throughout the country.
Read the Citation’s text.
AIA Landmark Building Award to Boyd
At a luncheon ceremony on May 6, 2004, attended in part by Mayor Street, at the Ballroom of the Park Hyatt at the Bellevue, the Philadelphia chapter of the local architects’ organization, the AIA, presented the 2004 Landmark Building Award for the Boyd Theatre (Sameric) and the Uptown Theatre. The brochure proclaimed that “Both theaters, with their exquisite Art Deco interiors, symbolize the plight of historic urban motion picture palaces, both in Philadelphia and across the country.” Prior winners include other Philadelphia landmarks such as the Lit Bros Department Store Building, the Naval Home, and the PSFS tower on