I conducted some more research on The Poli and found a great resource! This quote is from the blog “Tragedy and Comedy in New England” and was written by Jacqueline T. Lynch.
The theater was located at 286 Worthington Street, and after having its name changed to the Park Theatre in 1913, was destroyed in a fire in 1914. Poli was already busy building a new theater, called Poli’s Palace, a little farther down the street at 192-194 Worthington. This theater would continue as a vaudeville house, and after some years of sharing its audience with silent films, would eventually be turned over completely to that new medium when the talkies arrived, and Poli merged his chain with the Loew’s Corporation in 1934.
Here is the link to this great blog!
Poli’s Palace at 192-194 Worthington would have been the one Babu attended and I doubt she would have seen any of the vaudeville shows. She was too young to catch even the end of them! The blog posts mentions the Trolley that would bring passengers down Main Street almost to the theatre’s door and that made me smile. Babu remembers taking the trolley from Chicopee to the Poli to see the shows. I think of all the time I spend on Worthington street, mostly at Theodore’s to hear my friend’s band play. When I go there I’m right near the site where Babu used to sit and watch brand new movies starring Clark Gable. I decided to see what is in the place of the Poli now.
I have to say I am bummed. It’s a parking garage now. In her blog post Lynch wrote:
The Springfield Republican noted in December 1926, “Modeled, to some extent, after the elaborate Metropolitan picture theater in Boston, its stage and auditorium will be suitable to legitimate productions, vaudeville, and motion pictures.”
The might be what’s known as having it all, but we never have anything for very long. Vaudeville was dead by 1930, and the talkies carried what would be known as the Loew’s Poli theater for the remainder of the decade and beyond, until that distant day when downtown theaters would be replaced by suburban cinemas.
I never though about how all the theatres have moved away from “downtown” and it frustrates me. I’m a teacher in this urban city that when you think about it has little going for it. Some of my students never get far from the small circumference of their neighborhood. Many of them have never been to the ocean, many of them have never been to the large park in our own city. All most all of the students in my theatre classes start my course having never seen a live performance. I think of how their lives would be different if they had a theatre right downtown, somewhere they could walk or take the bus to – I doubt the trolley will be making a comeback anytime soon. The movies have a magic that dares us, challenges us and validates us and my community just doesn’t have easy access to it.
I am proud to say that this was just opposite the parking garage where the theatre used to be.
I know the group of people who made this happen and they bring visual and performing art to Springfield youth in a powerful way. They are called The Performance Project. Our city has some great things going for it. Art will never die.