Feb 20, 2012

Death of a Neighborhood Movie Palace

The Marlowe as she appears today

Additional photos and interior pics can be seen by following this link to my Flickr page

The Marlowe Theater at 257 Virginia was originally built as a modest movie house in 1915 by John R. Oshei, the same man who founded the Trico Corporation. Oshei owned and built a number of other theaters throughout Buffalo including the Teck Theater which was located in the 700 block of Main Street in downtown Buffalo. The Marlowe was named after one of Oshei’s favorite actresses, Julia Marlowe.

In 1929 the Marlowe changed hands and was purchased by Matthew M. Konczakowski who used the Marlowe as his base of operations for the three other theaters he owned. He spent $70,000 dollars on a complete overhaul in 1941 including doubling the original size, air-conditioning, and the addition of a modern façade, which is how the building appears today.

The Marlowe as she appeared in 1979. Image Courtesy of the Buffalo Evening News, 10-17-79
The improvements lengthened the building 40 feet, increased it to 7056 square feet, and seated a grand total of 998 people. An article from the Buffalo Evening News published January 22, 1941 described the remodeled theater in great detail:

“Air conditioning and indirect lighting from a circular ceiling dome which radiates all the colors of the rainbow have been installed. Acoustical plaster covers the ceiling. The walls trimmed in peach, blue, brown, and green, are overlaid with special insulation and acoustical board. Aquamarine and dubonnet-tinted draperies reflecting the color scheme throughout set off the auditorium. A marble lobby is appointed with mirrors from the floor to the top. Restrooms and sitting rooms are finished in tile. Guest rooms, 18 feet wide and 12 feet deep have been added to an upper “balcony” flanking an enlarged projection room…The front façade, modernistic in design, is colored in brown, heather, and buff. Brick and litholite exterior walls have been replaced with terra-vitra tile.”


The last five decades have not been kind to the Marlowe and when Konczakowski died the theater closed shortly after. When the theater operation ended it changed hands multiple times, being used as a church by various organizations. In 1979 there was feasibility study conducted by the Community Planning Association Center of WNY to possibly renovate the building for a mini-convention center for Hispanic cultural and social activities, but nothing happened.

The photo in the lower right corner is how the Marlowe looked originally before the 1941 modifications.
Image courtesy of the Buffalo Evening News, 11-22-20
Wrecking equipment is already waiting around the building for a controlled demolition that will take place between this week and the first weeks of March. Although current property records do not reflect the change in ownership, Hispanics United across the street recently purchased it from Prince of Peace Church, which vacated the Marlowe in 2007 and moved to a church at 190 Albany Street. Hispanics United considered reuse, but unfortunately with half a century of deferred maintenance the costs were apparently too great. A three story, residential building is slated to take its place. 

There will be no encore for the Marlowe and it’s once proud marquee will never again light up the neighborhood, inviting residents to take in a show.

A special thanks to David Torke of fixBuffalo who mapped the most recent batch of city demolitions, which includes the Marlowe and can be seen here.


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1 comment:

  1. Too bad. It must have been a beautiful building. Unfortunately the "acoustical plaster" that covered the ceiling was asbestos, and with the amount of debris from that probably scared off any investment in the property. Thanks NYS. Sad to see these go.

    ReplyDelete