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Never Before Seen Photos of RKO Palace Theater

October 7th, 2012

Rochester's RKO Palace Theater during demolition. 1964. [PHOTO: D.O. Schultz / Rochester Theater Organ Society]
A few weeks after we discovered the RKO Palace Theater floor at the site of RGRTA’s future transit center, Russ Shaner, president of the Rochester Theater Organ Society external link contacted me. These were the guys who saved the old Wurlitzer pipe organ from the RKO Palace before the building was demolished. And as it turns out, one of their founding members, D.O. Schultz, captured a treasure trove of photographs and left them with the Organ Society before he moved to Florida years ago. Russ asked RochesterSubway.com for help, both archiving the photos, and sharing them with you, the public. Yesterday you saw part 1, and now, here is part 2 of this awesome collection…

Giant scoop moves the rubble into the trucks. [PHOTO: D.O. Schultz / Rochester Theater Organ Society]
Giant scoop moves the rubble into the trucks.

Exterior north wall of the auditorium. [PHOTO: D.O. Schultz / Rochester Theater Organ Society]
Exterior north wall of the auditorium.

South east corner of the front lobby (Clinton Ave. side). [PHOTO: D.O. Schultz / Rochester Theater Organ Society]
South east corner of the front lobby (Clinton Ave. side).

Looking from southeast corner, at intersection of Clinton and Mortimer St. [PHOTO: D.O. Schultz / Rochester Theater Organ Society]
Looking from southeast corner, at intersection of Clinton and Mortimer St.

South east corner of the front lobby (Clinton Ave. side). [PHOTO: D.O. Schultz / Rochester Theater Organ Society]
South east corner of the front lobby (Clinton Ave. side).

Onlookers watching from Clinton Ave. [PHOTO: D.O. Schultz / Rochester Theater Organ Society]
Onlookers watching from Clinton Ave.

Front lobby section. [PHOTO: D.O. Schultz / Rochester Theater Organ Society]
Front lobby section.

Looking at the balcony. [PHOTO: D.O. Schultz / Rochester Theater Organ Society]
Looking at the balcony.

Looking at the balcony and doors to the auditorium beneath. [PHOTO: D.O. Schultz / Rochester Theater Organ Society]
Looking at the balcony and doors to the auditorium beneath.

Rubble where the stage was. Looking west toward Saint Paul Street. [PHOTO: D.O. Schultz / Rochester Theater Organ Society]
Rubble where the stage was. Looking west toward Saint Paul Street.

North wall of auditorium. The dressing rooms and stage are on the right. [PHOTO: D.O. Schultz / Rochester Theater Organ Society]
North wall of auditorium. The dressing rooms and stage are on the right.

Taking down the northern stack of dressing rooms. There were seven levels of them. [PHOTO: D.O. Schultz / Rochester Theater Organ Society]
Taking down the northern stack of dressing rooms. There were seven levels of them.

Beneath the balcony looking stage right. [PHOTO: D.O. Schultz / Rochester Theater Organ Society]
Beneath the balcony looking stage right.

Taking down the stage wall. [PHOTO: D.O. Schultz / Rochester Theater Organ Society]
Taking down the stage wall.

South wall of auditorium. Mortimer Street side. [PHOTO: D.O. Schultz / Rochester Theater Organ Society]
South wall of auditorium. Mortimer Street side.

South wall of auditorium. Looking toward front lobby on Clinton. [PHOTO: D.O. Schultz / Rochester Theater Organ Society]
South wall of auditorium. Looking toward front lobby on Clinton.

Inside of stage with seven levels of dressing rooms on the left. [PHOTO: D.O. Schultz / Rochester Theater Organ Society]
Inside of stage with seven levels of dressing rooms on the left.

Looking from Mortimer Street toward stage and auditorium. [PHOTO: D.O. Schultz / Rochester Theater Organ Society]
Looking from Mortimer Street toward stage and auditorium.

Stage left. [PHOTO: D.O. Schultz / Rochester Theater Organ Society]

Front lobby entrance. [PHOTO: D.O. Schultz / Rochester Theater Organ Society]
Front lobby entrance.

XXX [PHOTO: D.O. Schultz / Rochester Theater Organ Society]

Looking up at balcony. [PHOTO: D.O. Schultz / Rochester Theater Organ Society]
Looking up at balcony.

All clear. Dump trucks are where the auditorium was. Front lobby was in the lower right of view. Saint Paul St. in the background. [PHOTO: D.O. Schultz / Rochester Theater Organ Society]
All clear. Dump trucks are where the auditorium was. Front lobby was in the lower right of view. Saint Paul St. is in the background.

We are currently making plans to donate this entire collection of photos to the Rochester Municipal Archives and/or the Rochester Public Library.

Now that you’re crying in your soup, go check out these Beautiful Photographs of Decaying and Repurposed Movie Palaces external link from around the country.

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This entry was posted on Sunday, October 7th, 2012 at 10:00 pm and is filed under Rochester History, Rochester Images. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

10 Responses to “Never Before Seen Photos of RKO Palace Theater”

  1. David Shein says:

    Dude, I love what you do here so much. Rochester is such a great town, but what it needs most is a stronger sense of community and of its own identity and history. You are contributing to all of those in a very meaningful way. Thanks.

  2. Dave DiPonzio says:

    Such a sad thing =(

    Check this site out. Another one of my fav. http://afterthefinalcurtain.net/

  3. Scott says:

    It is sad that we live in a society that would rather tear something down to build something new, yet cheap and looks like everything else, or worse yet put in another parking lot, than to preserve something that is truly unique and more or less unable to be duplicated now. I think it would be fitting to put together a list of some of the notable persons who preformed at this old theater. Is there a list of acts known?

  4. Thank you for posting these sad, but historically important, photos. We shared a link to your page on our Theatre Historical Society blog, Readerboard.

  5. Beth Rhodes says:

    Do we know if more got salvaged from the building other than the organ?

  6. Russ Shaner says:

    Mike, Thank you for the fantastic job you did in scanning the photos and posting them here. We are all indebted to Dan Schultz and Richard Neidich who took the bulk of the photos and to Lauren Peckham who passed them from Dan to me several years ago. I invite those who are interested in the organ to visit our site for more information about the Rochester Theater Organ Society (RTOS). Our next public concert will be on Sunday, October 21st at 2:30 pm. On our site, ‘click’ “The Blower” (our newsletter)tab to find a discount coupon for admission tickets.

  7. Russ Shaner says:

    To partially answer Beth Rhodes question, I believe there was an auction of interior fixtures and furnishings prior to demolition. I do know that some furnishings were in a mansion in the Finger Lakes area that burned to the ground while undergoing restoration back in 1974 (google Isle of Pines, Wayne, NY). Part of the golden grills that fronted the organ chambers and some drapes were used in a home organ installation near Himrod, NY in the 1970s but it is long gone and I do not know the fate of the grills. I have no knowledge of the fate of the light fixtures, artwork, etc.

  8. Rick says:

    Hi Russ and great job with these photos! Absolutely HEARTBREAKING going through them! I could go on about how it would’ve been nice if only… but it’d be just echoing everyone else’ sentiments over again. At least we still have the Auditorium, albeit not nearly as ornate as everything else they’ve destroyed over the years. Hopefully it’ll be around for a long time to come if anyone learns from the past. Hopefully too, people will be intrigued enough to come out and check out the organ and support one of our last few historic resources remaining.

  9. Dave DiPonzio says:

    Does anyone know why they tore it down? Financial issues? Low attendance? It’s a shame. Only thing I remember historically about Rochester is Midtown Plaza (I’m only 21)

  10. Brian Kelly says:

    I loved the Palace! So many, if not most, American cities have saved and restored at least one of their movie palaces (lowly Oakland has two!), but not Rochester. Such a shame.

    In the mid-40′s the touring Big Bands played Loew’s Rochester. I don’t think the Palace had any live shows at the time.

    I saw “It’s A Wonderful Life” one wintry opening-day matinee at the Palace. Full house. I loved it so much that I returned twice during the same week, each time dragging a host of aunts and uncles with me. Also remember seeing “Heaven Can Wait” (Don Ameche) at the Palace.

    The ambience was terrific. In one of those interior demolition photos you can see the beautiful slopes of the balcony and main floor.


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