Proctor’s Theater- Troy, NY

Proctor's Marquee
Proctor’s Marquee- Troy, N.Y. 11.20.10 ©sbethy

So exciting- the first post submitted by a reader!  That’s right, I have readers!  So for all you Capital District readers, this isn’t the Proctor’s in Schenectady, that one is alive and well.  Here we have Proctor’s in Troy- you know that place across the river.

Once home to a thriving steel industry, two professional baseball teams (in the late 1800’s ) Jane Fonda and Uncle Sam, Troy has been suffering from a lagging economy and urban flight for decades.  In the 70’s, in an unsuccessful attempt at urban renewal, several downtown blocks were razed *GASP*.  Luckily, today, there are much more successful efforts to preserve the historic structures that are left downtown in an attempt to revitalize Troy. Currently, there is an antique district filled with galleries, cafes and of course antique shops, a year-round farmer’s market and numerous festivals.

For a city almost completely destroyed by fire three, yes, three times the amount of intact original architecture is astounding.  Don’t believe me, just watch ‘The Age of Innocence.’ While Proctor’s Theater doesn’t date from the Victorian age of architecture, this amazing historic building it is just another example of the once prosperous past of a troubled city and the many possibilities for it’s renewal.

Some History:

  • Built in 1914 by Frederick F. Proctor with Arlard Johnson as the designer
  • Proctor is also the man behind Proctor’s Theater in Schenectady and other Vaudeville theaters in Albany and New York City
  • It cost $325,000 to build and was at the time the largest theater in the state
  • Originally built for high class vaudeville, the theater later adapted to show movies
  • Jack Benny, Jimmy Durante, and Bob Hope performed at Proctor’s
  • The building is constructed of brick and marble and covered in glazed terra-cotta
  • Proctor’s attendance began to decline as a result of urban flight in the mid-20th century
  • The theater closed in 1977
  • It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979
  • RPI (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute) purchased the building in 2004

What’s happening now?
So as far as I can tell RPI still owns the building and there have been numerous plans to adapt the building.  One horrifying plan proposed to use a state grant to gut the interior and replace it with office space and restore the facade.  This caused quite the uproar amongst the community and preservationists and it has since been taken off the table.  As of March 2010, the plan has been to renovate Proctor’s with the goal of moving City Hall to the historic site.  The theater space will be ‘untouched’ (I’m not sure if this means literally untouched or restored as a theater space but I think you know what my stance on that is), the first floor will contain retail space and the offices will be located on the upper levels. This, to me sounds like a fabulous idea- so long as they restore the theater space and lobby and use it wisely.

What can you do?
Visit Save Proctor’s Theater to sign their online petition, donate, or sign up to help!

4th Street facade. 11.20.10 ©sbethy

4th Street marquee and facade. 11.20.10. ©sbethy

Proctor's shortly after opening. Source- Don

Historic marquee. Source- Save Proctor's Theater.

Theater boxes then and now. Source- Save Proctor's Theater.

Stage. Oh, the stage. Source- Save Proctor's Theater.

Theater lobby- then and now. Source- Save Proctor's Theater

Theater hallway. Source- Save Proctor's Theater.

Lobby ceiling 11.20.10. ©sbethy.

Facade details. 11.20.10. ©sbethy

Facade gargoyles. 11.20.10. ©sbethy

Facade stone work and lion head gargoyles. 11.20.10. ©sbethy

Exposed brick under deteriorated terra cotta under the marquee. 11.20.10. ©sbethy.

I haven’t been in the building, (but if anyone who reads this has that sort of power, I want in) but the photos tell a convincing story.  Nothing is built like this anymore, noth-ing. Spend the money and restore this- it’s structurally sound.  Apply for grants- local, state, federal, fund raise, I don’t care.  This is a vaudeville theater- marquee, velvet curtain, vaulted ceilings- as I type this I really can’t believe people need to be convinced.

I know it may be a financial challenge, but I have ideas for that too- but I won’t get into that here.

Information gathered from:
Save Proctor’s Theater
Firms have plan to make Proctor’s new City Hall
Will Troy’s Proctor’s finally be saved?
Proctor’s Theater
Troy, NY


About sbethy

I have three college degrees including a Masters in Historic Preservation. Since many people aren't hiring preservationists right now I thought this would be a great outlet to document and hopefully publicize amazing buildings that I believe need attention. Originally from NY and currently living in NJ just over the bridge(s) from Philadlephia most of the places I'll feature will be in these areas. If anyone reading this has any buildings they are curious about or love and want to share, let me know and I'll do a little research, take some photos and you'll see the building highlighted. You'll see that I don't tend to focus on pretty buildings that have been perfectly restored. I tend to be drawn to ones that are more in a state of disrepair or are clearly underutilized. There is something about that aesthetic that I am drawn to and makes me wonder about its history- what was it's function, who worked/lived there, who built it, what happened to it, can it be saved? Also, whenever possible I am going to use all my own photography since I love taking photos as well.
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3 Responses to Proctor’s Theater- Troy, NY

  1. Lisa says:

    Another fabulous post!!

  2. I am a member of the Save Proctors Group in Troy, New York. Proctors also had store fronts and above them, offices. The front facade has been cleaned, the roof repaired and the offices are being refurbished in preparation for a new tenant who is scheduled to move in approximately end of this coming September! The theatre itself will be taken over by our group with the hopes of restoring it, hopefully, over the next 5 years.

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