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Director's Column

PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.

The Capitol Theater - Steubenville

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, September 7, 2008


The Capitol Theater, located at 4th and Adams Streets, opened to the public on September 7, 1925 to a variety of stage shows and movie clips.


The theater cost $ 700,000 to construct and covered a space of 150' x 131' at the southeast corner of 4th and Adams.


The exterior was made of glazed white terra cotta, lighted by six large double boulevard lights along the sidewalk.


Like theaters of that era, it was decorated to cause people to escape into a different world.


A Grecian frieze and Corinthian columns decorated the interior, with crystal sidelights and chandeliers on the interior.


The balcony was called an "engineering feat," constructed of reinforced concrete weighing 26 tons without a pillar for support.


The pit would accommodate a 20 piece orchestra in front of the stage, which measured 75 feet wide, and 33 feet deep.


Beneath the stage were 10 dressing rooms and 2 prop rooms, with scenery lowered from the bridge on the second floor.


The most striking feature of the interior was the proscenium arch done in Italian Renaissance style, built in grand style for perfect acoustic sound.


On opening day, an estimated 2,500 people jammed into every available space in the theater.


The Capitol presented a variety of vaudeville on the stage for opening day.


Sadie Lang provided a skating act with "Babe" Bunting and the Emerald Sisters.


Coss and Barrows provided a comedy called, "Good Morning Lady" complete with song and dancing.


A "feature photoplay" from Warner Brothers was entitled, "The Wife Who Wasn't Wanted" was supplemented by "News and Views" and a cartoon comedy.


In 1925, these movies were silent and accompanied by the song from the orchestra, as the huge Robert-Morton theater organ wasn't installed until 1927.


Veteran local pianist, Joseph Schweitzer, led the orchestra.


He was joined by violinist Dave Torin and Jack Baker.


Flutist Aenea Trovarelli, clarinetist Harry Brostman, and brass players Leo Lusk, James Lusk, and Samuel Hickey were also named in the opening day article.


Dorothea Jones was also in the orchestra pit providing piano music.


The orchestra played Sousa's "Stars and Stripes" march for the audience, as well as "incidental music" for the motion pictures.


By 1930, the movies had added sound and the need for a theater organ or orchestra was diminished.


Stage shows continued at the Capitol, but like other "movie palaces" of the 1920s, the venue became mostly a place to watch movies.


The Capitol Theater didn't survive to celebrated its 50th anniversary, it was demolished around 1970.


It is interesting that few photos survived of Steubenville's downtown theaters, if you have such a photo, please share it with the library for our collections.