Lost Washington: the Savoy Theater

Savoy facadeThe Savoy was originally built in the Colonial Revival style in 1913 near the intersection of 14th Street and Columbia Rd., NW. In 1916, the Savoy Theater company sold the building to Harry M. Crandall, Washington’s early movie mogul. The Savoy was his fourth theater, Crandall’s goal being to have a movie house in every Washington neighborhood.

After purchasing the Savoy, Crandall closed the theater for two months for extensive renovations. When he reopened in September of 1916, and after spending several thousand dollars more, the changes were reported as being so radical, with decorations so elaboration both inside and out, that patrons familiar with the old theater had a hard time believing the new Beaux Arts inspired structure was the same place.

Savoy lobbyThe most striking change was the addition of a balcony, increasing the seating capacity to more than 1,400. To accommodate this, the roof  was raised.

Savoy interior 1Another distinctive feature was the marquise, which extended the entire width of the building. The spacious lobby was adorned by pillars of green marble, caen stone walls, gold lacquered mirrors, and art panels. The colors of the lobby were described as being primarily of ivory and rose.

Savoy interior 2On the exterior, Crandall installed electric lights, including a great sign that flashed the name of the theater making it viewable for a considerable distance.

An interesting feature of the Savoy was a trellised open-air theater to the right and behind which allowed audiences to watch movies outside during Washington’s muggy summer evenings. This space later disappeared.Savoy outdoor theater

Later, the Savoy enjoyed success as a third-run house, playing films exactly one week after they played at the Tivoli, the Tivoli charging 15 cents more than the Savoy’s ticket price of 40 cents ca. 1950.

Ultimately, the Savoy was burned in the April riots of 1968 and razed in 1971.


4 Responses to “Lost Washington: the Savoy Theater”

  1. Interesting becuase the Savoy and the Tivoli were our main standby movie theaters. This is where we met all our friends sooner or later, and not so friends too. It was all fun. I believe when I was going to the Savoy it was still 25 cents I think. Anywaythe Tivoli had that kool hidden staircase and the outside balcony.

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  4. R. Kelley Says:

    What I remember most about The Savoy was those wonderful Kidde shows on Saturday afternoons. You saw two horror or science fiction movies and 3 or 4 Warner Bros. cartoons. 25 cents got you into the theater and another 25 cents got a bag of pop corn and a soda. Puberty hit when the Bikini Beach movies started coming out, so it was off to the Tivoli to watch those flicks. It’s a shame that Columbia Heights doesn’t have a movie house anymore.

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