| On the evening of November 11, 1918, the Strand at Upham's Corner in Dorchester opened with a double feature -- Queen of the Sea, starring Annette Kellerman, and Out of a Clear Sky, starring Marguerite Clark, with extra added attraction Miss Emilie Earle, the songstress de luxe. Advertised as Dorchester's New Million Dollar Photoplay Palace, one of the first designed specifically for motion pictures, and hailed as New England's most beautiful theatre, the Strand opened the same day that the news of the Armistice, which ended World War I, reached Boston. Patrons who dressed in formal wear were in a high state of excitement as they were greeted by ushers wearing immaculate white gloves and jackets with gold braiding.
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The theatre entrance featured a two-story recessed triumphal arch with a fanlight tympanum and a quietly elegant Adamesque interior. The interior sparkled with electric chandeliers, lighting the way to the gala opening for 3000 movie-goers. The architects were Funk and Wilcox in Boston, who also designed the Franklin Park Theatre and Boston's Olympia Theatre on Washington Street in Boston (later the Pilgrim), and the builders were McGahey and O'Connor who had built St. Mark's Church on Dorchester Avenue a few years earlier. The theatre boasted the first theatre organ in New England at a reported cost of $75,000. It was played by Arthur Martell who was "acknowledged as one of the foremost motion picture interpreters in America."
Ray Bolger who was born in Dorchester and graduated from Dorchester High in 1920 made his debut at the Strand in 1922. Comedian Fred Allen who lived at 290 Savin Hill Avenue made frequent appearances at the Strand. Other notable celebrities who appeared at the Strand over the years include Fanny Brice, Milton Berle, Jack Benny, Jerry Lewis, Duke Ellington and Alfred Hitchcock.
The Strand is probably the only remaining vintage neighborhood theatre in Boston. After a mid-century decline, a massive restoration effort brought the Strand back as a cultural and entertainment center and a landmark of the Upham's Corner neighborhood. Managed by the M. Harriet McCormack Center for the Arts until the about 2003, the Strand provided a wide variety of programming for a new generation. The City is now renovating the Theatre.
Reader's Comment received Jan. 4, 2006 from Catharine Flynn, now living in Nebraska.
Although I went to see many, many movies at the Strand, which was in walking distance from our apartment on Willis Street, the movie I most remember seeing there was, "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang," in 1968, when I was 9 years old. A whole group of us kids who lived in the Willis Streets Apartments went together along with about 3 moms. We had so much fun that day!!!!!!
Comment received June, 2006
From: "Declan O'Brien"
Re: Overview: Strand Theatre
I have very fond memories of the Strand Theatre. I am involved with an Irish theatre group, Parnassus and in 1987 we brought a production of the play "Da" by Hugh Leonard over from Dublin for a 3 night run.
The play won a tony award in the 1970s with Beranrd Hughes in the title role. A movie version was made in the 1980's starring Berand Hughes and Martin Sheen.
Anyway, we are an amatuer group and this was a massive undertaking for us. The trip came about through a contact with a theatre group in Boston and they made the arrangments locally. Unfortunaltely, they overlooked the publicity part of it with the result that we had no more than 40 people in each night to see it. You can imagine trying to do a play to 40 people in a 1400 seater!!!
Despite all that, we had a marvellous time. The theatre is magnificent and I'm delighted it is still operating. I came into my mind and I decided to do a search on google to see if it was still going.
From: Donald Gudbrandsen July 2009
I do not remember the year it was somewhere in the mid to late 30s. My grandmother usedto save up the old newspapers to sell to the rag man. One day she told me that I could have the money for the papers. It was 25 cents a magnificent sum for me. I planned on how to spend the money until my mother told me I had to take my sister to the movies with it. Under protest I took her to the Strand, we saw the movie and since I had change left over she insisted that we spend it on hot chocolate. I don't remember the moviebut a trip to the Strand was an adventure in itself. Too bad the dollar (or the quarter dollar) doesn't go as far as it used to.
From: James Pomeroy September 2009
I remember going all day for 25 cents in the 50's. 1st stop was the Hillside Spa aka Joe's then past the donut shop maybe stopping at the drug store to get bulk candy[ cheaper]
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Created: August 17, 2003 Modified: December 27, 2009