Mamaroneck Playhouse: A Short (but Entertaining) History

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With the Mamaroneck Playhouse soon to re-invent, again, here’s a little historical context.

SEPTEMBER 07, 1928 – DATE NIGHT!

So, say you live in Mamaroneck and are going out on a date tonight.

I suggest you begin by dining out.

Walter Warrington just finished building his crazy Chinese Pagoda Stand with the brown copper roof on Palmer Avenue.

He’s serving the same hot dogs that made him famous when he had that small stand on Boston Post Road in Shepard’s Field.

At this new location he also has his own cider press. Fresh cider to go with his hot dogs!

And if your date likes to drink something a little stronger than cider, well Mamaroneck and Larchmont have plenty of options for thirsty patrons.

Henry Gironda, the Town Constable, manages “The Ferncliff.” Supposed to be quite nice and it’s right on the Avenue.

You could go there after catching a show at the new Mamaroneck Playhouse that opened just three years ago.

It’s widely considered state of the art, leading edge, the finest establishment of its kind in any village of Mamaroneck’s size in the country.

There’s a new comedy scheduled entitled “So This Is Marriage.”

It was written by Edwin Burke and is here in Mamaroneck for a limited two day engagement.

People in the know say it’s in try outs for a Broadway run.

Broadway’s brightest stars test out their shows on our Playhouse’s stage with our community, before hitting the “Big White Way.”

And I’m told Burke is hoping that Hollywood will make this production into a color movie with sound!

Maybe it’ll come back to the Playhouse as a movie!

You know what won’t ever make it to the Playhouse Stage?

There’s this fellow, Walt Disney, working on a short animated movie about a rodent, that he wants to release in November.

Supposed to be called “Steamboat Willie.”

Like Mamaroneck citizens would ever pay to see a cartoon about a rodent at The Playhouse!

Well, come to think of it, I couldn’t believe it when I heard about a woman pilot flying across the Atlantic!

Here’s to you, Amelia Earhart!
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Before the Playhouse was built, just down the street was the Mamaroneck Auditorium.

But the wealthy John Lynn wanted a new, grander theater for Mamaroneck; a ‘palace of entertainment.’

So he hired architect Frank Quimby.

Bids were opened for a general contractor in December of 1921.

But there was a problem…

John Lynn suffered some financial setbacks and couldn’t afford to finish his partially built theatre property.

Fortunately the citizens of Mamaroneck stepped up.

Irwin Wheeler, owner of the Mamaroneck Auditorium put together a new company: The Mamaroneck Playhouse Holding Company.

To raise the funds needed to complete the building he issued shares in the company.

More than half were bought by local citizens; people who lived and worked here and were raising their families. They thought this was a great investment and would improve the quality of life for all.

The Playhouse Holding Company approached Lynn about selling it to them.

John Lynn agreed.

But there was a problem…

As the legal negotiations were proceeding between the Holding Company and Lynn, Lynn died.

He committed suicide In May of 1923 so the whole deal was left in a legal mess.

Fortunately the citizen investors didn’t get spooked. They stayed the course.

After about a year, the lawyers were able to unentangle the legal mess and the deal was set to close.

But there was a problem…

Back taxes!

The government decided that the estate of John Lynn owed them money.

They put a lien on the theater property preventing its sale to the Mamaroneck Playhouse Holding Corporation!

And as time was slipping by, new theaters were opening around Mamaroneck in White Plains, New Rochelle, Port Chester, Rye, and Harrison, attracting the same patrons the Playhouse was hoping to get.

Would there be enough business for the Playhouse if it ever got completed?

Fortunately, none of that was enough to spook the Corporation’s small share holders. They stayed loyal to the project, the vision.

The tax lien problem was resolved and Irwin Wheeler, the President of the Corporation called in architects Davis, McGrath & Kiessling to draw up plans to finish the building.

Finally, December 05, 1925, “The Playhouse” opened.

Some of the greatest films ever made: Cecile De Mille’s TEN COMMANDMENTS, Melville’s MOBY DICK, our own Fenimore Cooper’s THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS, Lon Chaney in THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, played at the Playhouse.

The Playhouse has failed several times over the years, but somehow, it has always managed to stage a comeback.

We look forward to the latest rewrite!

This piece can also be seen on Mamaroneck History’s Facebook page

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2 thoughts on “Mamaroneck Playhouse: A Short (but Entertaining) History

  1. My Grandfather, B. H. TUTHILL ran the Playhouse for some years…he had been friends of the BARRYMORE CLAN, he too a resident of Mamaroneck. He had for time before, been involved in theater and movies dating back to 1912. He was the first to show movies on SUNDAY in Westchester County….so was told by my grandfather…and he had his good friend MARIE DRESSLER, a well known performer of the period, be his guest at the opening of the PLAYHOUSE.
    The family, incl my mother and uncle lived on BARRY Avenue….home WAS close to the SOUND

    Peter H Werner, grandson, now 85 + residing in Florida

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