Lost Building of the Week-- August 17th

Victoria Theater (aka Nicklette Theater)

913 Market Street

Holy shit what the fuck is that!?
                   This one has been driving me nuts since I acquired the photo above for my collection on May 6th. Just look at that thing. What was it? Shrine of Saint Kickass? Church of the Consumption of our Lard? Tomb of the the Unknown Klingon? The damn thing looks ancient. And BUTT-ASS AWESOME!
                   I bought the photo from a junk store... the first thing I do at any such store is ask whoever's in charge if they have any old Philly photos or renderings. 99 times out of 100 they say "Fuck no, get the fuck out!" and 9 out of every 10 times that they say "yes", they dig up some old picture of Independence Hall.
                  This time was different. The old man in charge of the place not only said "yes", but also whipped out the photo above. At first, I didn't even believe it was Philly, but after recognizing the Horn & Hardart's next door I realized that I was being presented with a lost-ass Philadelphia building I didn't know about. I was excited as fuck. I was able to find all kinds of info on lost buildings for this blog and figured this one would be a piece of cake. I couldn't be more wrong. I searched and searched but could only find bits and pieces.
                 After digging around for 4 months and asking everyone I knew, I finally found out some shit. The building was called the Victoria Theater and it was on the north side of Market between 9th and 10th. The place had vaudeville acrobat shows and this 1910 photograph has been used in a number of history books that speak on American child labor in the early 20th Century. Accompanying info says that the kids were performers at the Victoria Theater of Philadelphia:

The kids are like "Keep digging, mothafucka!"
                     After that, I hit a wall and couldn't find shit. I went on to tell anyone who asked me about this blog about how I couldn't find anything on the Victoria Theater and how much it pissed me off. Finally I ended up running into a theater buff online who thought I was an asshole for not knowing anything about this place. I never caught the person's name but they pointed me in the right direction. Thanks, anonymous stranger.
                   It all begins with Siegmund Lubin, one of the pioneers of American film-making and known Philaphile. An optics dealer, he became fascinated with the invention of moving pictures and decided he would create his own films and cameras and start a movie business. He got sued up and down for copyright infringement (with good reason, pretty much every aspect of his company was copied off someone else) throughout his career but was not deterred. He started a movie studio in Philadelphia (in his backyard) in 1897 and continued to expand, eventually becoming one of the largest studios in the country.

Famous 1899 photo of Lubin's rooftop studio.
                     Film was such a new medium that there really wasn't such thing as a movie theater at the time. Lubin visited some early movie theaters to figure out how they worked and started building his own all over the eastern half of the country. He became massively successful and is credited with beginning the movie business as we know it. In 1908, he set out to build a new Philadelphia theater to add to the collection, this time much bigger and more luxurious than his previous efforts.
                   He approached some badass architects, George Stearns and Horace Castor, and said, "Alright you fucks, I need a movie theater that can hold 900 motherfuckers. It needs to be at least 70 times more badass than any other one I have." Stearns and Castor were already well-known at this point and had already put up some of Philly's coolest buildings and mansions, many of which still stand today. They practically did this one in their sleep and it turned out AWESOME.

Photo from when it began kicking the 900 block of Market Street's ass.
                  It opened in 1908 as the Nicklette Theater and it kicked ass. It would later be used as an example of how to build a huge movie theater. Only a few months after it opened, Lubin was like "fuck this shit" and sold his entire chain of theaters in order to pay for his massive new studio he was to build in North Philadelphia. The place was renamed the Victoria Theater and continued to show Lubin films in addition to vaudeville acts.
                The place lived on for 4 more decades, showing everything from feature films to burlesque acts. The super kick-ass facade got all covered in crud and the theater eventually became the most blighted thing on the block.

From about the same time period as my photo. Check out the Strawbridge's Building in the background.
                    The Victoria Theater was demolished in 1950 and the rest of the block got demolished in the 1970's for the building of the... wait for it... Gallery at Market East. What a damn shame. Could you imagine what it would be like if this building was still around and restored? Fuck the Troc, this place would be one of the coolest concert venues in the city.  Scott Columbus would have drummed his fucking dick off on that stage and Lord Ezec would love to kick this place's ass! Well, someone could always rebuild the motherfucker. Here's the blueprints! The perfect spot for it would be in tomorrow's Empty Lot of the Week.

No, seriously.

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