Not too long ago, I became interested in a new hobby - collecting ephemera. Mostly postcards, but also matchbooks, newspapers, etc. When I first began collecting postcards, I wondered exactly where I would start. I mean, if you think about it, there are postcards for just about every subject and location. I decided I would start by collecting old postcards of Utica, NY (where I grew up for most of my childhood). The city is fairly old, has many interesting sites and structures (including many that have been around awhile), but is not so big that one could get overwhelmed trying to collect a broad cross-section of important points of interest.
As I've collected these items, I've found myself increasingly interested in the history of the various sites portrayed in the postcards. I'll write a post another time about my thoughts regarding this hobby another time, but I thought that today I would post about one of my favorite sites in Utica - the Stanley Theatre. Here is a postcard of the Stanley Theatre from the 1940s:
The Stanley Theatre, according to its website, "opened September 10, 1928 and has been the premier showplace for Central New York ever since. Thomas Lamb, a prolific theatre architect, designed this 2,945 seat movie palace for the Mastbaum chain of theaters. The theatre was named for Stanley, one of the Mastbaum brothers." The design style is described as "Mexican Baroque," or a combination of Mexican (the terra cotta and tiled mosaic exterior) along with "Hapsburg lions, Indian faces, and a multitude of angels and putti (cherubs)." The interior also has a significant amount of gold-leaf decor. Walking in, one can't help but be overwhelmed by the beauty of this old-style look. This is a picture of a staircase located at the entrance of the Stanley:
And here is a picture of a box, along with its gold-leaf decor:
According to their website, "There are four major local presenters that use the Stanley: the Broadway Theatre League which brings in touring Broadway shows; the Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute Great Artists Series which features the best in opera, recital artists, and dance companies; the Utica Symphony Orchestra; and the Mohawk Valley Ballet." However, the Stanley is currently being renovated, to the tune of $16.9 million. This is in large part to allow for a larger variety of shows (which could not perform here earlier due to size, complexity/number of props, etc.).
The Stanley Theater, under construction.
I can recall going to the Stanley regularly since I moved to Utica at age seven. They often showed movies there when live performances weren't scheduled, and I also remember attending some children's shows as well. As I got older, I was lucky that my mother wanted to instill in me an appreciation for live performances (though I wasn't as enthusiastic at the time!), and we went as a family to see musical acts like Chet Atkins perform, as well as plays like They're Playing Our Song. When I was in high schools, I saw Kansas perform at the Stanley when the regrouped to promote their album Power, and I saw Robert Palmer on his Simply Irresistible tour. However, it is only as an adult that I have an appreciation for the venue, and not just the act.
The pictures aren't great - I took them with an old camera over a year ago, while construction crews were in the throes of remodeling (I actually snuck into the place through the only unlocked door I could find, after checking about 10 other ones...). The lighting was dim, the camera so-so, and my photography skills non-existent. However, I'm glad I was able to snap a few of these off prior to the remodeling being complete, since I am really looking forward to comparing them to the new look. I am hoping I get to attend a show at the Stanley this summer, even if it's just a movie. My understanding is that the construction should be done (if not, I'll just have to find another unlocked door!). What I am most happy about is that the Stanley is still there to be visited. In this day and age, that is no small feat. Malio Cardarelli, an author and historian of all things Utica, writes in his book Downtown Utica about the number of theaters Utica used to have - The Colonial, The Majestic, the Utica Opera House, the Avon, the Olympic, and the Utica Theater. They would host all manner of performances, and were quite popular before radio, television, and the automobile provided increased competition for audiences. Now, all that's left is the Stanley, but at least there seems to be enough good sense to hold onto it.
Oh, here is a picture of the Stanley from one year ago, from the same vantage as the postcard above.