195 Bank Street
This view of the intersection of Bank Street and Center Street shows a group of eight men spreading hot asphalt mix to repave a section of Center Street, while eight men look on. A truck to the left of the photo contains work supplies, while the asphalt steamroller is seen in the background. Center Street contains no vegetation and can be characterized by wide concrete sidewalks spanning approximately ten feet in width and several buildings lining the east and west sides of the street. Two buildings, 191-195 Bank Street and 207 Bank Street, located the intersection of Center Street are easily discernable.
191-195 BANK STREET
A two story three bay frame building is located at 191-195 Bank. The east façade contains three doors and large sections of windows on the lower level with three evenly spaced 1-over-1 windows on the upper level. A striped awning is drawn back over one of the doors on the east side. A sign on the main facade is partially shown, reading, “Smoke.” The building was probably constructed during the late 19th century, as it was occupied by the H.W. Steadman, V.S.; Gregory Grain Co. and the O.K. Steam laundry in 1901(1). Thirty years later in 1931, residents of the building included the Patten, Irwin & White Hardware Store and the W.E. Greene Co.(2). However, by 1935 the building was destroyed, marked on the 1935 Sanborn map as a stone foundation with the label “H.W. Abraham”(3). In 1942, the Sanborn map continues to show the foundation with a label “Old foundation. Plank Floor Level with Ground” (4).
207 BANK STREET
The Majestic Theatre at 207 Bank Street is located at the southeast (left) corner of the intersection and is a large brick building with plastered exterior walls. The prominent view of the building is of the west façade of the building, which exhibits seven bays with six protruding piers and pointed finials on top. Two white doors located in the first and sixth bay provide access into the building. The corner of the main façade faces north and is similar in character with an oversized-cornice with detailed dentils and molding. A globe light fixture is seen attached to the front façade with a scrolling metal bracket. A slightly smaller globe light fixture is attached to the west façade with a simpler metal bracket. At eye level are two framed cases that contain featured movie posters.
The movie theatre was constructed in 1911, when J.R. Lockwood and E.R. Hutchinson bought the property at the corner of Bank and Center Streets from John L Southwick(5) Shortly after, Lockwood and Hutchison gave a building contract to the architectural and building company, the W. Shelton Company to construct Burlington’s first movie theater showing motion pictures(6). The theater opened on May 16, 1912 with a sold out audience paying 5 cents a ticket(7). After the opening day, ticket prices rose to 10 cents for adults and 5 cents for children(8). The first film featured on the screen was a silent movie, with music by a four-piece orchestra.
Popularity of the Majestic Theater grew and by the late 1920s, the theater had installed a large pipe organ to accommodate the silent movies(9). A few years later in November of 1925, the first talking movie appeared on the screen at the local theater(10). Also during that same year, the building received a new air system.
When World War II struck the United States, the popularity of the Majestic continued to increase as movies offered a way to escape the pressures and stress of daily life. New Year’s Day quickly became a popular event at the theater for local city newsboys, as local businessman John Flynn handed out free tickets to the Majestic on the first of the year(11). An anecdotal account of the New Years Day event, recalled, “If you missed the free tickets, you could always sneak into the Majestic. The side door was infamously easy and William Castle, the long-time doorman, smiled on children who lacked the money to pay their way in.”(12) During the 1940s, the Majestic Theater burned and sustained $30,000 in damages. However, the theater was redesigned with excellent acoustics, and brown substitute leather seats(13).
(1) Burlington City Directory, 1901 (Burlington: H. A. Manning Co., 1916-1986).
(2) Burlington City Directory, 1931 (Burlington: H. A. Manning Co., 1916-1986).
(3) Sanborn-Perris Map. Burlington, Vermont 1926 with 1935 updates.
(4) Sanborn-Perris Map. Burlington, Vermont 1942.
(5) “Majestic Played the Silents” Burlington Citizen, July 1980.
(6) “Majestic Played the Silents” Burlington Citizen, July 1980.
(7) “Majestic Played the Silents” Burlington Citizen, July 1980.
(8) “Majestic Played the Silents” Burlington Citizen, July 1980.
(9) Hapner, Chris. “It’s 15 Years Since We Welcomed the New Year at the Majestic” Burlington Free Press, 1969.
(10) Hapner, Chris. “It’s 15 Years Since We Welcomed the New Year at the Majestic” Burlington Free Press, 1969.
(11) Hapner, Chris. “It’s 15 Years Since We Welcomed the New Year at the Majestic” Burlington Free Press, 1969.
(12) Hapner, Chris. “It’s 15 Years Since We Welcomed the New Year at the Majestic” Burlington Free Press, 1969.
(13) Hapner, Chris. “It’s 15 Years Since We Welcomed the New Year at the Majestic” Burlington Free Press, 1969.
191 Bank Street
Today the intersection of Bank Street and Center Street remains similar to its historic appearance of the mid 20th century. The street continues to lack vegetation and buildings are the predominant feature of the landscape. The Majestic Theater no longer stands at the corner, having been replaced by a Mobil gas station. The Majestic continued to show movies throughout the 1940s and early 1950s; unfortunately, declining audiences in addition to increased competition from the Flynn Theater forced the Majestic to close in 1954(1). Ironically, the two theaters were owned by the same corporation. After entertaining the residents of Burlington for over 42 years, the Majestic Theater was sold the same year(2). Two years later in February 1956, the “best theater in Vermont” was demolished to construct a gas station on the former site(3). The gas station remains on the former Majestic site today.
The building located at 191 Bank Street was rebuilt in the mid 20th century years after the demolition of the old structure. The new 191 Bank Street building appears to have been constructed on the old foundation, as it is similar in size and massing as the old building. Today the two story brick building houses Climb High and the Champlain Clothing Company, two outdoor gear apparel stores.
(1) “Majestic Played the Silents” Burlington Citizen, July 1980.
(2) "Majestic Played the Silents” Burlington Citizen, July 1980.
(3) "Majestic Played the Silents” Burlington Citizen. July 1980.
Historic Burlington Project
Depression Era Streetscapes: Old North End | Burlington 1890 | Burlington 1877 | Burlington 1869 | Burlington 1853 | Burlington 1830
Produced by University of Vermont Historic Preservation Program graduate students in HP 206 Researching Historic Structures and Sites - Prof. Thomas Visser - in collaboration with UVM Landscape Change Program
Historic images courtesy of University of Vermont Library Special Collections, Louis L. McAllister Photograph Collection