The restoration of the Colonial Theater was completed in August, 2006

Please click here to visit the official Colonial Theater web site. Review the current season,

order tickets online and learn more about the finish restoration...



   click here for a flash tour before the restoration

Opened Sept. 28, 1903 with a production of the operetta Robin Hood.
World-famous touring companies played here weekly. Stars included Sarah Bernhardt, Ethel Barrymore, Geo. M. Cohan. The Colonial Players were a resident Co. from 1912 to 1924. Closed as regular 'playhouse' in 1934: became a movie theater in 1937.

Movies continued until 1949. Bought by George Miller in 1952.
Last play performance by the Town Players, Dec. 15, 1952.

Original building cost was to be $60,000 but they went over to $70,000.
Built by Sullivan Brothers of North Adams. Owned by a Corporation of local businessmen,

Designed by James McArthur Vance who also did the Mahaiwe in Gt. Barrington
Vance was from Urbana, Ohio, lived here from 1894 to his death 1948. Vance designed the Masonic Temple, Baptist Church, Wahconah Park, Bascom Lodge, and several North street Banks and Bldg's.
Louis Fleming, President of THEATER PROJECTS CONSULTANTS of London, Eng. says the Colonial is one of the eight or ten best theaters in the,world.

Anna Pavlowa danced here with the Ballet Russe.
The 100 member cast of 1928 Ziegfeld Follies played here. Uncle Tom's Cabin played here

The original color scheme was cream,gold, and ivory, naturalistically painted in floral designs, with walls of maroon and scarlet.

The retail stores On the front & the Marquee were added in 1937. click here to return to menu

Photography by r.s.fetridge/berkshire television
Photography by r.s.fetridge/berkshire television
Direct quotes from the Pittsfield Civic Center Report, Nov. 1983

Prepared by Theatre Projects Consultants of New York and London. Louis Fleming, President of TPC

The Colonial is most definitely one of America's finest old theatres which still stands in its original form. The citizens of Pittsfield should make every attempt to see that this magnificent building is revitalized.

Opened in 1903, the Colonial was in a class above most playhouses of its day.

This theatre is a "jewel" in terms of its design and decoration.

The Colonial is one of America's finest theatres that has survived intact and is a significant cultural asset to Pittsfield, The Berkshires, the State of Massachusetts and the whole community of American Theatre.

Nobody could doubt that the Colonial Theatre is eligible for the National Landmark of Historic Places.

A theatre of outstanding character and design.

The Colonial has the potential to become a star attraction.

Pittsfield would gain national recognition in a new way.

The Colonial could prove to be a catalyst for the revitalization of downtown.

Few, if any, cities in America can boast a heritage of early Theatre architecture as rich as that of Pittsfield.

The Colonial...even in its present condition surpasses any theatre of its age in the cities of the Eastern seaboard, including New York, with the exception of Philadelphia's Academy of Music. click here for menu

Photography by r.s.fetridge/berkshire television
Photography by r.s.fetridge/berkshire television
The COLONIAL THEATER: a brief history

Built by Sullivan Brothers Construction of North Adams: opened as a playhouse on September 28, 1903. Sold in 1911 to a Corporation of Pittsfield businessmen as the Pittsfield Theater Co. They owned 25,000 shares of stock at $1.00 per share.Original cost estimated at $60,000. Actual cost $70,000.

Workers labored on two Sundays to finish painting, etc. Rev.F.W. Lockwood preached a sermon that this was "sinful and destructive" in its "tendency, and should not be tolerated."

Building designed by Joseph MacArthur Vance, an architect made his home here from 1894 to 1948. He also designed the Masonic Temple, The First Baptist Church, Berkshire Life (top floors)
on North Street, the Berkshire County Savings Bank,(now Berkshire Bank) The Christian Science Church, the Registry of Deeds Bldg.,the Grandstand at Wahconah Park, and seven neo-classical homes on South Street. Later (1906) he designed the entire Barrrington Block and the' Mahaiwe Theater in Gt. Barrington. He designed Bascom Lodge on Mt. Greylock.

Vance was a native of Urbana, Ohio, received a degree from M.I.T.and married a Pittsfield girl in 1896.
The Colonial Theater has been called one of the three best acoutical theaters in the world. It opened on September 28, 1903 with a production of ROBIN HOOD, presented by the world-famous opera company, The Bostonians. A featured finale number was Oh, Promise Me.

Touring productions were presented weekly with stars such as Ethel and John Barrymore and John Drew. Sarah Bernhardt made the first of several appearances here in 1917 for three nights in JEANNE D'ARC, THE LADY OF THE CAMILLIAS, and MERCHANT OF VENICE.
A permanent stock company called the Colonial Players was formed in 1912 and remained until 1924 with occasional re-appearances later. This company was the origin of the Town Players of Pittsfield still in production with three shows a year: the second oldest community theater in the U.S.

Tanglewood history says that the BSO first played in Lenox in 1936 but programs show the BSO with
Max Fiedler here in 1912.

Anna Pavlowa danced here with the Ballet Russe Co.
Blackstone the Magician appeared here. So did famed Irish Tenor John McCormack. click here for menu


The stage which has its original floor has a proscenium opening of 32' with 15' of wing space on either side. The flyspace or grid is at 64' with a 30' proscenium height. The entire building is 145' deep by 62' to 65' wide. The `stage is 34' deep which is more than most Broadway theaters except the newest ones.

Inspection stickers show that the original seating was for 1158 patrons. The six tiers or boxes could seat 6 people each. Total 72. No seat is more than 80' from the stage. click here for menu


The original color scheme was very Victorian with the walls painted deep maroon at the top tiers and a"golden scarlet" on the floor sections. This was offset by architectural decoration in cream, gold, ivory, and nile green with deep green carpets and maroon leather seats.

The plaster work was naturalistically painted by one Carl T. Anderson and designed by Mortinson and Holdenson of Boston, Massachusetts.
The combination of natural greens and pink,rose and white flowers was said, quote," to surpass anything in this part of the country." Pure gold leaf was used to highlight and decorate even the ceilings. It was redecorated in 1913 to be more "modern" with a new color scheme of cream, gold, brown and ivory. click here for menu


Overhead in the main audience area is a great sounding board which is painted with a mural representing music and art. Even in its own time the Colonial was noted for its remarkable acoutical properties. Modern theater experts have said that it may be one of the three best theaters in the world for its acoustics. The present mural with laurel leaf banding is original. click here for menu

The Colonial became a fulltime movie theater in 1937 and continued to show fims until 1949 with an occasional stage production road booking. In 1952 it was bought by Mr. George Miller who intended to save it as a theater. He later adapted it to his Art and Paint Supply business without destroying any of the theater itself.
click here for menu


A movie called FOOLS OF PASSION was shown in 1928. The ads stated,
"Because of the staggering expose of tragedies resulting from sexual ignorance" men and women will not be allowed to attend together; ladies were admitted only on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and men on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. No one under sixteen.

One opening scheduled for Thanksgiving sold poorly. The producers announced a great event for Park Square and released fifty turkeys with tickets attached to each\bird's leg. If you caught a turkey you had your dinner and a show that night. Edith Luckett, the ingenue star of the Colonial Players married a Pittsfield man on June 17, 1916. They had a daughter Nancy who was later adopted by Dr. Loyal Davis, Miss Luckett's second husband. Nancy Davis became First Lady Nancy Reagan. Her father was Kenneth Seymour Robbins. click here for menu


Proscenium - the arch or frame around the stage

Tiers - separate boxes for seating near the front Wings the backstage areas off the stage: usually not seen

Grid (or flyspace) the tall stagehouse for flying scenery out of sight Orchestra- the main seating area on the first floor

(Orchestra pit refers to the musicians area)

Mezzanine or First Balcony the seating above the orchestra

Family circle the upper balcony ( the Colonial has wooden benches) click here for menu

Some of the historical personalities who appeared at the Colonial Theater

Maude Adams ,Macklin Arbuckle ,George Arliss, Fay Bainter, Ethel Barrymore John Barrymore,
Sarah Bernhardt, Mary Boland, Irene Bordoni ,Billie Burke, Constance Collier ,
Henrietta Crosman, Jane Cowl ,John Drew ,Maxine Elliot ,Douglas Fairbanks ,Rex Fall ,
Geraldine Farrar Wm. Faversham Mrs. (Minnie Maddern) Fiske Amelita Galli-Curci Grace George , Wm. Gillette (Sherlock Holmes)' Sir Ben Greet' Walter Hampden ,Charles Hackett,Anna Held
Isabel Irving, May Irwin

*Edith Luckett (1912-1916) Julia Marlowe, Enid Markley, Thelma Ritter ,Will Rogers,
Lillian Russell, Marjorie Rambeau, E.H. Sothern ,C. Aubrey Smith ,Harry Stone ,Mabel Taliaferro Frank Worthing

DANCERS: Doris Humphrey,Anna Pavlowa, Ted Shawn and Ruth St. Denis, Charles Weidman
ORCHESTRAS & MUSICIANS: Creatore, Walter Damrosch, Max Fiedler (BSO) 1912
,Fritz Kriesler, Ignace Paderewski, Sergei Rachmaninoff, John Philip Sousa.Philharmonic Orch. of New York, Wm. Mengelberg,

Lew Dockstader's Minstrels, Sir Harry Lauder

Marriage of Figaro, Int'l Opera (1924)

Ziegfeld Follies 1928 Tour The Rockettes

Eubie Blake's black musical SHUFFLE ALONG 11/2/1926

Uncle Tom's Cabin (1914 and 1934, 1945)

FORMER PRESIDENT Wm. Howard Taft spoke on January 16, 1917 as President of the League to Enforce Peace.

A number of Massachusetts Governors/Lt. Governors and officials.

*Edith Luckett married Kenneth Seymour Robbins of Pittsfield
June 17, 1916; one daughter, Nancy. Nancy Robbins Davis is now Nancy Reagan, First Lady. click here for menu

click here to visit other historical theatre [TheatreHistorical Societyof America logo]

November 14, 2006
  Ric and Wendy Fetridge Berkshire Television Contact us berktv/1999

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