Strand Theatre

No. 16676 Report card on Strand Theatre, part of an MGM study in 1930s and 1940s.


The StrandTheatre is located at 543 Columbia Road, near Hancock Street.

The Strand Theatre took the place of the Dyer mansion.

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.

No. 4341 Illustration of the Strand Theatre on opening day, November 11, 1918.






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.
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.  In recent years the City has renovated the Theatre once again.


Posted on

April 23, 2020