What It Looked Like Wednesday: Elmwood & Utica

By Steve Cichon

For decades, the northeast corner of Elmwood Avenue and West Utica Street, with its mid-century brick bank building and large parking lot, looks like it would fit in almost any post-war-built suburb in America.

But it was quite the city neighborhood centered at Elmwood and Utica for many decades. The area was one of several in the city that held mock elections for neighborhood mayor in the 1930s and 1940s. When he was “elected” “Mayor of Elmwood” in 1939, William Feger had been selling magazines and the Courier-Express from a newsstand on the corner for more than twenty years.

Up until the mid-1960s two great buildings stood at the corner where that modern bank now stands. The photo shows the Auditorium Building in 1910. In the ’50s and ’60s, that building was home to a Marine Trust bank branch and the Elmwood Billiard Academy.

And in what is now the bank’s parking lot stood the Elmwood Theatre.

Built in 1916, it was renovated and reopened by Michael Shea and company in 1930.

The seating area was completely replaced with new mohair-covered chairs — which experts said were the best for the new trend of sound pictures, reducing reverberation and echoing.

The proscenium arch, side walls the stage entirely refitted with new draperies and curtains. A Magnascope screen is being installed which will enable this theater to bring scenes from talking pictures up to the entire size of the stage opening.

A new marquise is being placed in front and new electric signs installed around the top of it, including a complete new program announcement system.

Michael Shea came to Buffalo from New York to personally oversee the project, which included balconies that movie patrons remember as among Buffalo’s steepest — even giving the Aud’s Oranges a run for the money.

The theater was torn down in 1965.