Thomas Lamb, 1928Martinez and Johnson Architecture with Finegold Alexander and Associates, renovation, 2004
Preservation Achievement Award, 2005
Benjamin F. Keith, for whom this theater was originally named, introduced the term vaudeville and the notion of continuous, wholesome entertainment at low prices. By the time of his death, he had a chain of more than 400 theaters. Part of Keith’s success was due to his opulent buildings, which attracted respectable society and later became the model for movie theaters. The flamboyant Spanish baroque façade in terra-cotta is only a taste of what follows in the vast high-ceilinged lobby with its several levels of galleries and sixteen Italian marble columns weighing seven tons each.
After a period of deterioration and some time on the National Trust for Historic Preservation's most endangered buildings list, the building was extensively renovated in 2004. To accommodate the needs of large Broadway touring productions, the old stagehouse and attached dressing rooms were completely demolished to make way for a larger, state-of-the-art stagehouse and new dressing rooms. Meanwhile, everything between the proscenium wall of the stage and the Washington Street facade was carefully restored to the exacting standards for historic preservation of the National Park Service and the Boston Landmarks Commission. A rare assembly of old-world craftspeople restored sculptural plaster, gold leaf finishes, Carrara marble, paintings and tapestries, grand staircases, chandeliers, walnut and oak paneling. The restoration included replication of historic carpet, seating and silk wall panels. When the historic patterns for the silk wall panels proved too large for modern looms, a loom was custom-built to create the historic pattern.
The primary tenants today are the Boston Ballet and Broadway Across America. For more information, see: http://www.bostonoperahouse.com