Historic Structures

Building Alterations Academy Building, Fall River Massachusetts

Exterior changes to the block as a whole are mostly confined to the street-level shops, which probably had cast iron storefronts similar to those now only found on the building's east (rear) elevation. Storefronts were not only changed but totally restructured in the twentieth century, judging from the massive redlead-primed steel members used.

The Theatre portion of the building was demolished in the 1980s, the following describes the condition and changes to the theatre prior to that time.

The Academy of Music reopened as a movie theatre on Wednesday, November 20th, 1945, after extensive renovations by Zeitz Theatres of Fall River, Inc., who had leased the building from the Dunn family, adding it to a family of theatres in New Bedford, Portland and Newport, A newspaper account on November 15th of that year describes the theatre as "redecorated and refurnished," and physical inspection confirms that alterations were not structural. Changes were as follows:

South Main Street Entrance and Marquee: The aluminum marquee, with red panels and a back-lighted program directory, dates from 1945 as does the aluminum cladding of the entry. The existence of an earlier canopy or marquee can be deduced from the early cast lion's heads to which the marquee chains were presumably fastened. No other trace of this earlier feature remains.

An undistinguished aluminum ticket booth was placed in the street-level entrance at this time. since theatre tickets had hitherto been sold in the shop next door. Aluminum exit/entry doors bisect the floor mosiac in this small entry space. Before this renovation, street-level doors either existed outside the mosiac, along the street line (where any trace has been obliterated by the new marquee), or did not exist at all. The latter possibility, is supported by a row of original doors with locks at a landing between the street and the lobby level.

Upstairs Lobby and Theatre Interior: The principal interior changes were cosmetic. Most important was the installation of new seating at both the orchestra level and first balcony. Thirteen hundred seats were installed of which approximately 800-900 are still in place. The seating arrangement appears unchanged from the descriptions of the original theatre. The hollow steel seats are beige, of "streamlined" design, with raised embossing, rounded corners and edges, upholstered seats and backs and wooden arm rests (birch) above the pressed metal. The first balcony seating is slightly different in detail.

Besides new seating the Zeitz Company installed new carpeting and repainted the theater. Blue gray was used on the woodwork and red was used on plastered surfaces. This color scheme was coordinated with the new carpeting. Newspaper accounts imply total recarpeting, but the ornate red carpet with a foliate motif at the orchestra level may date from the 19th century. The red carpet with black lines on the balconies, however, can certainly be attributed to the 1940's.

The second balcony was closed to the public in 1946. A non-permanent screen was hung from the flies of the theater and a small projection booth was installed there. The "Voice of the Theatre," a new General Electric sound system was installed, Air-conditioners were probably installed in the late 1950's.

Washrooms: Materials and fixtures used in renovation of the washrooms included asbestos floor tiles, cardboard walls and inexpensive white fixtures.

Chandelier: The only other significant element of the remodelling was the cleaning of the huge, central chandelier. According to the newspaper account "The chandelier in the center, a mark of distinction in the past, has been renovated and polished until it blazes with a veritable sunburst when lighted." Presumably, this dominant element of the interior is not mentioned in the earliest accounts, which talk instead of gas jets at various locations. The chandelier was probably added in the early 20th century although no records of this addition have been located. Installation of the chandelier may have been associated with William 0. Dunn's purchase and mortgage in 1910.

In 1946 fire escapes were added to the south and east walls of the theatre, facing the rear courtyard and Second Street respectively. New exit doors were opened to each of these two fire escapes from all levels, making a total of six new exits.