Ronald L. Andrews
12-14, S. Potomac Street (MD 65), Hagerstown, Washington County
The Colonial Theatre is a 1914 commercial structure, three stories high, with a heavily ornamented, Baroque influenced façade which sits tight to the sidewalk. The street level of the façade has a wide, recessed entranceway flanked by quoined end walls painted to simulate black marble. A small, detached, rectangular ticket booth site is centered on the sidewalk. The three sets of double doors with large glass panes leading into the theater are flanked by two small store rooms and large display windows. A large marquee bearing the name of the original theater projects over the sidewalk. The upper levels of the façade, which appear to be original, are constructed of glazed white blocks with gold decorative detailing, in a Palladian window shape, flanked by flat Ionic pilasters and with a heavy modillioned cornice with a decorated frieze and a closed roof balustrade. Other decorative elements of the façade include Baroque nudes in a pedimented sculpture panel, a fretwork and diamond frieze, a cornice with dentils, and an egg-and-dart band beneath the modillions. The street level was altered in the 1940s.
The Colonial Theatre in Hagerstown is primarily significant for the architectural merit of its façade. The façade is representative of the Baroque style of theater architecture popular in the early 20th century when the motion picture industry was beginning to develop into a major force affecting American society. It is particularly interesting for the decorative detailing of the upper levels, especially the sculptured panel in the pediment. Designed by Harry E. Yessler, a Hagerstown architect, and built in 1914 for the Colonial Real Estate Company, the theatre showed films until 1973, and is now owned by a church.