DC -- Columbia Heights -- Tivoli Theater --> GALA Hispanic Theatre (3333 14th St NW):
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TIVOLI_100523_002.JPG: DC -- Tivoli Theater
TIVOLI_100523_068.JPG: The Most Pleasant Suburb:
The Tivoli site and its neighborhood during the 19th and early 20th centuries have a rich and varied history. Although the area that is now Columbia Heights lay outside Washington's original boundaries, this hilly area north of the city, with its pleasant breezes and cooler temperatures, was a popular retreat from the malaria-ridden summers of swampy Washington. 14th Street has long been a major thoroughfare leading north from the city, connecting Civil War fortifications and hospitals, later the village of Mount Pleasant, and finally the Columbia Heights community to L'Enfant's Washington. Horse-drawn, then electric trolleys had their northern terminus at 14th and Park Road until 1907, with that intersection becoming a hub for bustling commerce. Columbia Heights in the early 20th century was one of Washington's most desirable suburbs for commerce, recreation, and home, boasting several theaters, the Arcadia amusement house, and attractive residential subdivisions.
Over the years, the Tivoli property has played several roles, witnessing to the sick and wounded of nearby Mount Pleasant hospital during the Civil War, then hosting the Sacred Heart Church during the early 20th century. Diverging from its humanitarian and spiritual tales, it became an entertainment place during the Roaring '20s, beckoning to all who wished to throw care aside and revel in the sensual tableaux of the "Temple of the Arts."
One of a series of Civil War hospitals that ringed the hilly area north of Washington's original boundaries, Mount Pleasant Hospital was located near the intersection of Park Road and 14th Street. According to oral tradition, First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln was treated at the hospital by army surgeons after a carriage accident in July 1863.
TIVOLI_100523_072.JPG: Movie Palace Moguls:
Harry Crandall, building of the Tivoli Theater, was "the man who brought movies to Washington," according to The Washington Star. An extraordinary entrepreneur, Crandall (1879-1937) rose from rags to riches by capitalizing on technological innovations in the film industry. A night operator for the fledgling telephone industry while in his teens, then owner of a livery business, Crandall realized automobiles would soon replace the horse and buggy. Foreseeing great financial opportunity in the movie business, he opened his first theater, the Casino, in 1907, spending $800 for improvements to open in an existing building at 4th and East Capital Streets, SE. At the height of his career, during the Roaring '20s, Crandall was far and away the city's biggest movie operator, owning twelve District-area theaters, including the Lincoln, Metropolitan, Knickerbocker, Savoy, and Tivoli.
Crandall's preferred theater designer was local architect Reginald Geare, who designed the Knickerbocker, Metropolitan, and Lincoln Theaters for the movie impresario. Geare's preparatory designs for the Tivoli were scrapped after the Knickerbocker's roof collapsed on movie patrons during the blizzard of 1922, and Crandall hired world-famous theater architect Thomas Lamb to design the Columbia Heights theater. Responding to the Knickerbocker tragedy, Lamb combined his signature style -- elegant exterior and sumptuous gold, crystal and marble interior -- with structural integrity provided by a durable steel frame and double-width brick walls. The Tivoli was the first neighborhood movie palace in Washington and was praised for having "downtown features at neighborhood prices and convenience."
TIVOLI_100523_078.JPG: The Temple of the Arts:
Opening Day -- Saturday, April 5, 1924:
As the 10 millionth Model T automobile rolled off the assembly line and the first around the world flight was completed, Harry Crandall opened his 2,500-seat movie palace in Columbia Heights. A savvy marketing and public relations impresario, Crandall published advertisements touting, "It can not be too strongly emphasized that the TIVOLI Theater is not in the usual sense a 'neighborhood house,' but a temple of the Arts expected to supply the entire District of Columbia the highest type of entertainment it can ever hope to enjoy." The Washington Post concurred and predicted that the Tivoli's influence on real estate values and business development in northwest Washington would be incalculable. Ticket sales for the Saturday evening, April 5th opening began on Thursday at 10:00am at the downtown box office of Crandall's Metropolitan Theater -- four tickets maximum, per person -- and by noon they were sold out.
The dedication program was stellar, with "Painted People" starring "flapper" Colleen Moore on screen and the wildly popular Fred Waring and his Pennsylvanians storming the stage. Also featured on the "bill de luxe" was the resident orchestra, a "ballet of symbolism," news reels, operatic arias, and a prelude on the $35,000 Wurlitzer organ. Theater patrons marveled at the Tivoli's sumptuous interior, whose richly appointed surfaces included marble, crystal, and gilt. A ceiling dome with intricate plasterwork dominated the immense auditorium, which had superior acoustics and an orchestra pit that was equipped with an elevator, said to be the first in the country.
The festivities were preceded by a two-mile long parade of cars, trucks, and floats that began near the White House and wound its way up 14th Street to the Tivoli. The spectacular opening prompted The Washington Post to print a full page, multi-story spread in its Sunday edition, calling the theater a true "Temple of the Arts." Harry Crandall was now the premier theater operator in the nation's capital.
TIVOLI_100523_083.JPG: Scene Changes, 1924-1926:
From it's dazzling opening day in 1924 until its closure and abandonment in 1976, the Tivoli mirrored dramatic economic and demographic changes in Columbia Heights over half a century. National trends in the entertainment industry and Supreme Court decisions would directly affect the Tivoli. And the people who designed, built, and patronized the movie palace created their own drama as fascinating as that which played out on the silver screen.
TIVOLI_100523_087.JPG: Saving the Tivoli:
Although the Tivoli was spared from the devastation that many buildings on 14th Street experienced during the 1968 riots, it suffered from neglect and threat of demolition for the next thirty years. The District's Redevelopment Land Agency purchased the Tivoli and the remaining block as a part of its urban renewal program. Plans to convert the building into a community center never materialized, and the theater and its retail shops closed in 1976,
In 1981, the neighborhood activists formed "Save the Tivoli, Inc." to protect the building from further neglect and possible demolition as well as to develop economically viable reuse strategies. In the mid 1980s, the Tivoli was designated both a local and national landmark, and attempts to demolish the building were blocked by the community preservationists. In 1998, the city issued a new request for development proposals, and the following year awarded Tivoli Partners, with Horning Brothers as General Partner, the rights to develop the entire block.
Collaboration with the City Offices of Planning, Economic Development, and Historic Preservation as well as community leaders, arts advocates, and historic preservation groups enabled Horning Brothers to achieve both goals of historic preservation and economic development. In 2003, Horning Brothers began a complete exterior restoration and interior renovation to accommodate neighborhood-oriented retain, offices, and a 270-seat performing arts house for GALA Hispanic Theatre. In December 2004, the lights on the Tivoli's magnificent marquee were switched on once again, signaling the landmark's grand reopening. The Tivoli's restoration and the construction of Tivoli Square, with supermarket and town homes, are key elements in the re-establishment of Columbia Heights as a vibrant hub of commerce, housing, and the arts.
TIVOLI_100523_093.JPG: "Lilies of the Field", Starring Sidney Portier, 1963:
In 1963, Sidney Portier visited the Tivoli for the debut of "Lilies of the Field." For his portrayal of an unemployed construction worker in the film, Portier received the Oscar for Best Actor, the first African-American to be so honored, and the only one until 2001. The event was a fund-raiser for CORE (Congress of Racial Equality), SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee), and the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), which joined forces in August of that year for the historic March on Washington. The March, which featured Martin Luther King Jr delivering his inspirational "I Have a Dream" speech, led to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1963.
The Tivoli returned to its roots as a live performance house in the late '60s, hosting the Tivoli Community Playhouse on Saturday mornings. Live entertainment was produced and directed by neighborhood youth, including a local high school band called the "Soul Phonics." In a letter of 1969 to The Evening Star seeking press coverage, the Community Playhouse spokesperson pointed out that the Tivoli was one of the few Columbia Heights businesses that was not involved in the "Civil Disorders of 1968."
Urban social unrest accelerated white "flight" to the suburbs and by 1970, Columbia Heights, which had been 73% white at the 1960 census, was only 32% white. The Tivoli was under the threat of demolition soon after District Theaters closed it in 1976.
TIVOLI_100523_097.JPG: Dr. Luther King Jr's assassination on April 4th, 1968 sparked angry looting and vandalizing of urban cores throughout the country, including the 14th Street corridor of Washington DC. At that time, the Tivoli was a fully integrated house and its perimeter businesses were operated by African-Americans. It survived the riots unscathed, protected by the repeating "Soul Brother" graffiti across its storefront glass. Riggs National Bank across the street was not as fortunate. Forty-four years to the day after the Tivoli opened, the most fashionable neighborhood playhouse of its time lay amidst the destruction and devastation of the Columbia Heights commercial center. The Federal government imposed a curfew in the wake of riots, National Guardsmen patrolled the 14th and Park corner, and only three theaters were open in Washington on the night of April 8th. Their combined revenue was $128. The Savoy Theater down the block did not survive the riots and was demolished within a few years; but the Tivoli limped along for another eight years before District Theaters closed it, the Booker T, and the Republic.
TIVOLI_100523_101.JPG: Crandall made sure that all public areas of the Tivoli were as inviting as the theater auditorium itself. In one of a series of pre-opening "teaser" ads that he placed in The Evening Star, Crandall wrote, "The restrooms and lounges will be models of comfort and convenience and the promenades will be still further notable for the insight they will permit into the mysterious workings of the projection booth and other parts of the theater from which the casual amusement-seeker is customarily barred." The richly appointed lounge was adorned with red velvet curtains, an ornate, classical gilded barrel-vaulted ceiling, and plush velvet settees.
In April 1924, the Washington Daily News reported that "the stars of opening night [were] the head of the projection room and his able assistants. Such exquisite projection I have never seen; it was literally perfect." While most theaters of the day had projection booths in the upper reaches of the balcony, the Tivoli's mezzanine level booth was on a direct line with the screen, avoiding any kind of distortion. Perfection earned the projectionists $65 a week.
On Saturday evening, April 5, 1924, Columbia Heights was THE place to be in Washington, DC, prompting The Washington Post to print a full page, multi-story spread in its Sunday edition. While 2,500 people enjoyed the entertainment inside the Tivoli, thousands more celebrated at the community carnival outside the theater. The festivities included fireworks, street concerts, dancing, neighbors donning costumes, and a special Tivoli ball held at the Arcadia Market and Amusement Co across 14th Street, where Crandall served on the Board of Directors.
TIVOLI_100523_105.JPG: Crandall offered a spectacular program of silver screen and live entertainment, as was the tradition prior to the introduction of "talkies" in 1927. "Athenian Plague," a symbolic ballet divertissement, was choreographed by Mademoiselle Desiree Lubovska to represent a fragment of an ancient Green temple.
The hit of the evening was Fred Waring and his jazz band, The Pennsylvanians. Waring started performing at Penn State in 1922 and by 1924 was playing to packed houses at the Metropolitan and Tivoli in consecutive week engagements. Waring was signed by Victor records in 1923; his first recording "Sleep" was a smash hit. Celebrated as "Washington's best and beloved band" by the press, Waring later went on to make movie sound tracks, host his own TV show, and become known as "the man who taught America to sing."
TIVOLI_100523_110.JPG: Designed by Reginald Geare in 1918, the Metropolitan Theater on F Street near 10th Street, NW, was Crandall's flagship theater and houses his executive offices. In 1927, it became the first theater in Washington to show a sound movie, Warner Bros., "Don Juan" as well as the first full "talkie," "The Jazz Singer."
In 1926, Warner Brothers invested half a million dollars in Bell Telephone Laboratories and Western Electric's risky venture called the Vitaphone Sound System. Talkies came to the nation's capital soon there-after in the film "The Jazz Singer," starring local-boy-made-good, Al Jolson; it premiered at Crandall's downtown Metropolitan Theater on Christmas Day 1927. The film earned its investment back seven times over with record profits of $3.5 million, propelling Warner Brothers into one of the premiere Hollywood film studios.
One of the most catastrophic accidents in the history of Washington, DC led to the collaboration of Crandall and movie palace architect Thomas Lamb. During the winter of 1922, an unrelenting, twenty-eight hour blizzard dumped over two feet of snow on the nation's capital, causing the fragile roof of Crandall's Knickerbocker Theater at 18th Street and Columbia Road to collapse. Few of the 300 patrons who had filled the theater on the evening of January 28th for a screening of the comedy hit "Get Rich Quick Wallingford" escaped unharmed. Crandall released Reginald Geare as his primary architect, even though Geare had already begun work on a new theater in the fashionable neighborhood of Columbia Heights. In his place, Crandall appointed the reputable Thomas Lamb as architect for all of his subsequent designs, including the Ambassador, built on the site of the Knickerbocker, and the Tivoli.
TIVOLI_100523_114.JPG: Scottish born Lamb (1871-1942) launched his career in New York by designing theaters for entertainment magnates William Fox and Marcus Loew. Loew expanded aggressively, taking his ace architect to London, Montreal, Ottawa, Brisbane, Bombay, and Washington DC, where they built the Palace Theater on F Street's theater row. The Palace, which Crandall must have admired, opened two weeks before Crandall's flagship theater, the Metropolitan, situated just a few blocks away on F Street. By the 1920s, Lamb's 50-person firm was designing theaters all over the world, including massive double-decker theaters in New York City and Toronto.
Thomas Lamb began designing the Tivoli less than six months after the Knickerbocker's collapse. A series of drawings and a presentation rendering reveal the evolution of the new theater's design. Lamb's first drawings for the Tivoli, dated 1922, were highly ornate, as the 14th Street elevation entitled "Theater Building" demonstrates. The handsome conceptual rendering of 1923, with Model T Fords and elegantly dressed theater patrons, shows that the Tivoli design had become simpler and streamlined, nevertheless still fully reflective of the Italian Renaissance style. These changes were most likely due to cost restraints, even though Crandall's estimation of $650,000 resulted in a final cost of over $1 million when the theater opened in 1924.
TIVOLI_100523_122.JPG: 14th Street was not only a vibrant commercial artery but also a major entertainment center. In addition to the Arcadia Amusement Company, a number of theaters lined the street. The Savoy, located on 14th Street at Columbia Road, was the largest motion picture house in Washington outside the downtown area when its 810-seat theater opened in 1914. The theater was enlarged and remodeled in 1916, shortly after Harry Crandall purchased it. The Savoy remained the most popular theater in the area until Crandall opened his most sumptuous movie palace, the 2,500-seat Tivoli Theater, in 1924.
TIVOLI_100523_130.JPG: On Monday, December 4, 1923 construction commenced on the Tivoli, which became the ninth in the chain of Washington theaters owned by Crandall. The building not only housed the 2,500-seat theater with grand lobby and promenade lounge, but also offices and an arcade accessed from 14th Street.
Incorporating a new understanding of structural integrity that followed in the wake of the Knickerbocker disaster, Lamb designed the Tivoli as the separate bodies -- stage, auditorium, and perimeter. The perimeter contained offices on the upper floors and several two-story shops along the 14th Street and Park Road frontages. The durable steel and double-width thick brick structure belies the elegance with which the interior auditorium was finished.
TIVOLI_100523_137.JPG: The Tivoli returned to its roots as a live performance house in the late '60s, hosting the Tivoli Community Playhouse on Saturday mornings. Live entertainment was produced and directed by neighborhood youth, including a local high school band called the "Soul Phonics." In a letter of 1969 to The Evening Star seeking press coverage, the Community Playhouse spokesperson pointed out that the Tivoli was one of the few Columbia Heights businesses that was not involved in the "Civil Disorders of 1968."
Urban social unrest accelerated white "flight" to the suburbs and by 1970, Columbia Heights, which had been 73% white at the 1960 census, was only 32% white. The Tivoli was under the threat of demolition soon after District Theaters closed it in 1976.
TIVOLI_100523_140.JPG: Horning Brothers, Mayor Anthony Williams, and City Council members announce an agreement to locate the Giant Food Store on property behind the Tivoli, leaving the theater building viable for adaptive reuse.
Wikipedia Description: Tivoli Theatre (Washington)
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The Tivoli Theatre is a landmark building in the Columbia Heights neighborhood of Washington, D.C. on 14th Street and Park Road Northwest. Originally built as a movie theater, it currently (as of 2006) exhibits live stage productions as the home of the GALA Hispanic Theatre.
The Tivoli Theatre was designed by prominent New York architect Thomas W. Lamb. It reflects Italian Renaissance Revival style architecture with its stucco exterior, red tile roof, ornate cornices, and numerous graceful arches. Completed in 1924 at a cost of $1 million, the theater was, until its closing in 1976, one of the most elegant movie houses in Washington, D.C. In addition to the main theater auditorium, the building contained offices on the upper floors and several two-story shops along the 14th Street and Park Road frontages. In the quarter century it has lain vacant, the building has suffered from neglect, extensive vandalism, and severe water damage due to a leaking roof. This early conceptual rendering of the theater was obtained from the New York City Public Library.
The history of the Knickerbocker Theater, designed by Reginald Geare, and built during the First World War, is closely associated with that of the Tivoli. The owner of the Knickerbocker, theater magnate Harry M. Crandall, operated a chain of movie theaters in Washington. Geare was his primary Washington architect and, in addition to the Knickerbocker, had designed the Metropolitan in 1917 and the Lincoln in 1921. The Knickerbocker was located on the southwest corner of 18th Street and Columbia Road in Adams-Morgan, the present location of a SunTrust Bank.
In a brief 24-hour period spanning January 27–28, 1922, a massive storm dropped 26 inches of snow on the city, causing the fragile roof of the Knickerbocker to collapse. Few of the patrons who had filled the theater that evening for a screening of the comedy hit "Get Rich Quick Wallingford" escaped unharmed. In the heaped rubble of the auditorium, 98 people were found dead and 136 injured. Following the collapse of the Knickerbocker, Crandall released Geare as his primary architect, even though Geare had already begun work on a new theater in the fashionable neighborhood of Columbia Heights.
In his place, Crandall appointed the reputable young Thomas Lamb from New York as architect for all of his subsequent designs, including the Ambassador, built from the remains of the Knickerbocker, and the Tivoli. Lamb began designing the Tivoli less than six months after the Knickerbocker collapse. Incorporating a new understanding of structural integrity which followed in the wake of the disaster, Lamb designed the Tivoli as three separate bodies-stage, auditorium, and perimeter.
The earliest architectural drawings of the Tivoli are labeled Scheme A and date to June 15, 1922 at which point the theater did not have a name but was simply referred to as "Theater Building." Lamb’s original proposal features ornate, decorative detail throughout the exterior. There is far more stucco detail surrounding the numerous windows on the second floor of this original conceptual design.
The canopy and marquee from these Scheme A drawings also differ from what was eventually built. The artistic streetscape rendering at the beginning of this series of pages reflects this grand original concept. (These original architectural drawings were found in the archives of the Avery Library of Columbia University, New York City.)
Ornate Scheme A drawings were still being produced as late as December 11, 1922. However, by April 12, 1923, the date of the final architectural drawings, the theater building had been given the name Tivoli and the drawings had become simpler and streamlined, nevertheless still fully reflective of the Italian Renaissance style. The change in design was most likely due to constraints imposed by owner Harry M. Crandall, whose initial building cost estimate was $650,000.
On Monday December 4, 1923 construction commenced on the Tivoli, which became the ninth in the chain of Washington theaters owned by Crandall. Although the final building was less ornate than the original conceptual drawings, it still cost over $1 million when it was completed in 1924.
The cross-section of the exterior reveals the wooden brackets and tin soffits under the eaves of the tile roof, masterful detail easily overlooked given the current condition of the building. One of the grand old palaces of Washington, D.C., the Tivoli was almost saved by a group of local supporters during the 1970s.
History since 1976:
After over 25 years closure, the Tivoli has benefited from a revitalization of the Columbia Heights neighborhood. Now reopened as a small Hispanic stage theatre in the former balcony and mixed retail use in the rest of the building.
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