The Leroy Theatre, Pawtucket’s renowned “Million Dollar Theatre” opened on May 1, 1923. Designed by architect John F. O’Malley, who later designed the Pawtucket City Hall and Pawtucket West High School, and commissioned by Charles Payne, an executive in the power industry, the Leroy Theatre was erected in 1922, named in honor of Payne’s son, Leroy, who had tragically lost his life during World War I. The theater boasted a mirrored lobby, an opulent electric chandelier adorned with a remarkable 4,700 bulbs, and the distinction of hosting the largest Wurlitzer organ in all of New England.
Like many theaters of this era, the Leroy originally showcased both vaudeville acts and motion pictures. Will Rodgers was one of the acts that performed on opening night in 1923, where he displayed his signature lariat tricks. During this era, the Leroy engaged in direct competition with several other downtown Pawtucket theaters, some of which had been in operation since the 1880s. Notably, the 1700-seat Music Hall on Main Street was a favored stop for many of the leading vaudeville performers, while other venues could be found on Mill Street (now Roosevelt Avenue) and Main Street.
During the late 1960s, Pawtucket, once prosperous, began to decline economically, and moviegoers increasingly favored suburban multiplexes over the downtown movie palaces. The Leroy Theatre closed its doors in 1963, briefly reopened in 1976, only to be shuttered once more. In recognition of its historical significance, it earned a spot on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983.
In the subsequent years, various attempts were made to repurpose the building. A ballet company briefly occupied the space in 1984, and from 1985 to 1990, it functioned as a concert hall. However, in April 1997, the property was sold to a Boston-based developer and subsequently demolished later that year, along with three adjacent buildings, to make way for the construction of a Walgreens drugstore. The site is now an Eye Care Specialist and a parking lot.
Matt Lambros RI Pawtucket Sep 14, 2023 Architecture Gas Stations Then & Now
Location: Pawtucket, RI
Matt Lambros Sep 14, 2023
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