After our story yesterday about the Pomerantz building at 1525 Chestnut St., a reader checked in, wondering about the architecture of the retail space a couple doors down, which currently contains a Mandee. And they were right to wonder; this storefront doesn’t exactly look like a typical location offering “casual and dressy head to toe dressing for junior customers.” And that’s because this storefront was home to a cinema since before the talkie era began.
According to Cinema Treasures, the Arcadia Theater opened at 1529 Chestnut St. in 1915, built by Alexander R. Boyd. Sold and resold over the years, it expanded into the building next door by 1967. In 1978, the last picture was shown here and it became a Gino’s, and eventually a Roy Rogers. The (apparently very unusual) restaurant lasted into the 1990s, and the building was vacant for several years before Mandee became a tenant around 2005. Over the past couple of years, the upper floor was used an an event space, but from what we can tell that business is no longer operating. Check out these photos of the building through the years:
In 1933. You can see the building that houses Five Guys once had a twin. Image from Philly History.
In 1959, on the left. Not yet expanded, but a different marquee
Expanded and totally changed in 1967. Image from Temple University Urban Archives.
By the end, some racier pictures were being shown. Image from Temple University Urban Archives.
Meanwhile, just down the street, another former cinema lives on at 1519 Chestnut St., with Finish Line as the tenant after many years of vacancy.
The Trans-Lux Theater opened in 1934, again according to Cinema Treasures. After a little over a decade of showing newsreels, it became a first-run theater in 1948, and was remodeled in 1965 and again in 1970. In the 1970s it was renamed Eric’s Place and remained in operation until 1993. It sat for over a decade, until Finish Line took over the space in 2006. We have a few old shots of this theater, as well:
In 1935, shortly after its opening. This place looked simply amazing. Image from Philly History.
In 2005, after twelve years of vacancy. Image from Cinema Treasures.
It kind of bums us out that these buildings, which were once so impressive to look at, have devolved to their current least-common-denominator condition. On the other hand, we appreciate even the slightest architectural nod to Chestnut Street’s more glamorous past, when cinemas dotted this stretch and Hollywood big shots made appearances for movie premieres. Hopefully, when all is said and done, the still vacant Boyd on the 1900 block of Chestnut Street will meet a slightly more elevated fate.
But only time will tell…