Stadium Theatre, ca. 1927
When the Stadium Building and Theatre opened in 1926, all hailed “A landmark in the progress of Woonsocket.” Local developer Arthur Darman intended the Stadium to be as much a civic monument as a commercial enterprise. The new facility featured a deluxe movie house designed by architects Perry & Whipple of Providence, as well as an office building and a parking lot—the city’s first.
The theatre offered comfortable seats, spacious circulation areas, and elegant decoration—devised by designers Watts & Hutton of Providence and Abraham Anthony of Boston. Crowds thronged to the Stadium for live performances, feature films, and newsreels—accompanied by a twelve-piece orchestra and a Wurlitzer organ. Darman explained that “Rich people can go to New York for amusement. I want the working man to be able to get just as good right here at home.” In 1976, the Stadium Building and Theatre was listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
The marquee went dark at the Stadium in 1985, and it seemed like the theatre was closed for good. Six years later, local activists organized the “Save Our Stadium” campaign to secure a future for the beloved theatre. The Stadium Theatre Foundation purchased the theatre in 1998 and funded its dramatic restoration, overseen by architect Daniel Peloquin and Canning Studios. You may remember that the last time the Stadium hosted the Rhode Island Statewide Historic Preservation Conference (in 2000) the walls of the auditorium were covered in scaffolding. The Stadium reopened in 2001.
With its wide array of cultural events and educational programming, the Stadium Theatre Performing Arts Centre is the largest performing arts organization in northern Rhode Island. An architectural and cultural landmark, the Stadium Theatre is critical to the revitalization of Downtown Woonsocket.
The conference gets underway with remarks from Woonsocket Mayor Leo T. Fontaine and Maia Farish of Roger Williams University.
The Opening Session is sponsored by Roger Williams University School of Architecture, Art and Historic Preservation.