Larcom Theatre // 1912

Why are historic theatres so dang charming??

The Larcom Theatre, in downtown Beverly, Massachusetts, was constructed in 1912, and is the oldest extant motion picture house in Beverly. The theatre was built on land that was formerly occupied by the home of Lucy Larcom, Beverly’s renowned poet and author, who wrote on the lives of the women in the textile mills of Lowell during the mid-1800s, and spiritual life in Massachusetts. Lucy Larcom was born in Beverly and after her father’s death when she was just 8 years old, the family relocated to Lowell as girls were wanted for employment in the mills. She excelled in school and later moved to Illinois and was employed as a teacher. She grew tired of the west and moved back to Beverly, later teaching at Wheaton Female Seminary (now Wheaton College) in Norton, MA. Larcom served as a model for the change in women’s roles in society. Larcom’s home in Beverly was just off the main commercial street and changing demands led to the redevelopment of the site for a motion-picture theater. Local architect George Swan was hired to design the modest theatre, which is adorned by masked faces. The theatre opened to showings of The Count of Monte Cristo, for just 10 cents a ticket! The theatre is used to this day as a multi-arts venue, under the name of Ms. Larcom.

Mohawk Theater // 1938

Local theaters once dominated the urban landscape, providing flashing neon lights and marquees on Main Street USA. After WWII, many downtowns saw populations move to the suburbs and through the advancement in technology, many of these historic movie houses were demolished. Large cineplexes with 10+ screens were built, and the death of the small movie theater coincided with the death of many Main Streets in the mid and late 20th century. Fast forward to today, we see many Main Streets thriving (before the COVID crisis) thanks to women and minority-owned businesses investing in their communities.

The Mohawk Theater in North Adams was built in 1938 and is an excellent example of Art Deco architecture in Western Massachusetts. Loews Cinemas hired the Boston architectural firm of Mowl & Rand to design the 1,200 seat theater which also featured a Native American motif at the lobby. The theater was sold in 1987 to a private investor, who opened the theater for occasional concerts and films, but efforts to maintain the Mohawk were short lived. In 1991, its doors were closed for good.

Harbor View Hotel // 1891

By the 1830s, Edgartown had become the most affluent town in Martha’s Vineyard thanks to the rise of the local whaling industry. Whaling in particular fueled much of coastal New England’s nascent economy in the early 19th century, as small, private schooners frequently ventured out into the Atlantic on a regular basis. Yet, the trade as both an economic and cultural force had largely died out around the time of the American Civil War. Fishing communities like Edgartown began to suffer, as countless sea captains found themselves out of a job. Despite the hardships, some on Martha’s Vineyard began to identify new ways to generate business. Tourism happened to be one of them.

North of town, a group of investors bought a waterfront site to develop the town’s first true resort, the Harbor View Hotel. It originally opened 1891 and was extremely successful for two years until the Panic of 1893, which severely harmed local tourism on Martha’s Vineyard. The hotel went bankrupt that year and sat empty for three years after. It was purchased by the original manager of the hotel and opened back up in 1896, with rooms costing roughly $3 a night. The owner in 1910, doubled the hotel in size to give it the look it has today. The resort was rented out by Steven Spielberg in 1975 for the cast and crew of the iconic film Jaws which was filmed on the island.

Image from Historic Hotels of America