The 100 things that make South Philly South Philly
At one time, there were 768 theaters in Philly, 31 of which were in South Philly, recalls local historian and author Joe Sbaraglia.
Nostalgia buffs know that lavish theaters, showcasing the latest Hollywood films or vaudeville acts, were a rich part of this area's entertainment history.
One of the first theaters was the Stratford at Seventh and Dickinson streets, which was open from 1906-66.
The Grand Theater opened in 1911 and showed silent films and vaudeville before "talkies" came along. It was a bargain date on Saturdays, when it showed a double-feature matinee, Sbaraglia says. The building, at Seventh and Snyder, was converted to a discount store in the late '50s, but a 1995 windstorm blew away the facade, and there again stood the Grand's marquee.
The Broadway at Broad and Snyder closed in 1971, and the President Theatre at 23rd and Snyder hung in until 1975. The Broadway also featured vaudeville acts of the day, as did the Dante and Savoia, says Sbaraglia.
"South Philly was a very popular stop on the Broadway tour. Most of the big vaudeville stars played here," he says.
In May 1989, the lights went down at the 79-year-old Colonial at 11th and Moyamensing, which showed films for a mere $1.25.
South Philly was home to one drive-in, South City Drive-in, which opened in 1950. Touted as a Hollywood-style theater, it stood at Broad and Pattison and took up 22 acres and eight city blocks, according to a 1950 Review article. --L.G.
In the summer of 1985, Bob Geldof stood on the JFK stage, fist raised in the air in an impassioned plea to put an end to the famine holocaust sweeping Africa. The 12-hour music marathon called Live Aid was one of JFK's last great moments, and the one that put the stadium in an international spotlight.
Four years later, in July 1989, then-Mayor W. Wilson Goode ordered JFK shut down after fire inspectors found safety hazards in the 66-year-old open-air arena.
That was the beginning of the end.
JFK's fate was sealed when Spectacor, the parent company of the Spectrum and Philadelphia Flyers, announced plans in 1991 to replace it with a 21,000-seat indoor sports arena.
One year later, the legendary stadium had a heavy date with a 3-ton lead wrecking ball. Many South Philadelphians gathered at the site to watch their memories of concerts and sporting events crumble to the ground.
In 1994, CoreStates stepped up to the plate with $40 million to name the new facility the CoreStates Center. It has already changed names to the First Union Center, but JFK remains etched in South Philly stadium history. --L.G.
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