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Capitol Theatre

811 Main Street, Moncton, New Brunswick, E1C, Canada

Formally Recognized: 1996/09/23

During the vaudeville years of the 1920's, The Capitol Theatre's cantilevered marquee hung over the sidewalk on the Main St. façade.; Moncton Museum
Capitol Theatre Façade - c.1923
The Capitol Theatre's fully restored proscenium arch is adorned with the gilding, stenciling and frescos of Emmanuel Briffa.; Capitol Theatre Inc.
Capitol Theatre Proscenium
Now restored to its splendour of the 1920's, the Capitol Theatre's marquee and façade cast their shadow on Main St., Moncton.; Moncton Museum
Capitol Theatre Façade - 2004

Other Name(s)

n/a

Links and documents

Construction Date(s)

1922/01/01

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2005/06/07

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

The Capitol Theatre is an Italianate opera house-style auditorium built in 1922, rebuilt in 1926, for cinema and live vaudeville acts and a smaller auditorium venue on the second level at the rear known as the Empress Theatre. Its two-story façade is located at 811 Main Street, Moncton.

Heritage Value

The Capital Theatre was designated as a Local Historic Place because it is a good example of Italianate opera house architecture from the 1920’s era in Canada and for its current restored condition. The Capitol Theatre is the oldest surviving theatre in Moncton, and one of only three pre-World War II theatres in the province. It is also one of the only remaining theatres of this era that was designed by a Canadian architect, René-Arthur Fréchet. It is one of only eight theatres in Canada to be authentically and historically restored to its original 1920’s style.

The Capitol Theatre is also designated for its importance during the growth of Moncton’s entertainment industry in the early 20th century. The Winters Family and Mr. Alexander R. Torrie created an entertainment venue that attracted tours from some of the largest shows and traveling vaudeville acts. In 1929, The Capitol showed the very first “talking” film in Moncton, “The Donovan Affair”. As theatres across North America were being taken over by large, America-based movie chains, this theatre fought to retain its status as an independent venue through most of its existence.

The Capitol Theatre also holds particular importance to the history of firefighting in Moncton. A plaque in the lobby honours the only Moncton firefighter to lose his life in the line of duty. A. H. Lindsay died while trying to fight the blaze that gutted both the Capitol Theatre and adjoining Empress Theatre in 1926.

It is the only theatre to date designated as a New Brunswick Provincial Historic Site. The Capitol Theatre was designated as a Moncton Heritage Property under By-Law #Z-1102 in 1996.

Source: Moncton Museum, Moncton, New Brunswick - second floor files – “811 Main Street”.

Character-Defining Elements

The character-defining elements relating to the exterior elements of the structure include:
- brick two-story façade with symmetrical fenestration;
- cantilevered marquee in the style of the period;
- paired doors;
- 2 over 2 windows with 12 light rectangular transoms;
- brick stringcourse;
- plain lug sills;
- central pilaster;
- common bond red brick rear and side walls.

The character-defining elements relating to the structural elements of the building include:
- three-story box-like massing;
- Italianate opera house design.

The character-defining elements relating to the interior elements of the structure include:
- authentically reconstructed opera boxes;
- second and third floor balconies;
- sunken orchestra pit;
- proscenium-frame stage;
- stage floor with its original sprung tongue and groove softwood flooring;
- original centre chandelier in the auditorium;
- restored Emmanuel Briffa frescos, gilding and stencilling;
- murals of Joy (Euprosyne), Festivity (Thalia) and Charm (Aglaia) by Briffa;
- Briffa’s fire curtain with some performers’ signatures from 1922 to present;
- art gallery of local artist’s work- plaque honouring firefighter A. H. Lindsay in the lobby;
- among the best acoustics in Eastern Canada.

Recognition

Jurisdiction

New Brunswick

Recognition Authority

Local Governments (NB)

Recognition Statute

Community Planning Act

Recognition Type

Local Register

Recognition Date

1996/09/23

Historical Information

Significant Date(s)

1929/01/01 to 1929/01/01
1926/01/01 to 1926/01/01

Theme - Category and Type

Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life
Learning and the Arts
Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life
Architecture and Design

Function - Category and Type

Current

Leisure
Museum
Leisure
Auditorium, Cinema or Nightclub

Historic

Architect / Designer

René-Arthur Fréchet

Builder

Ambrose Wheeler

Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

Moncton Museum, 20 Mountain Road, Moncton, New Brunswick - second Floor, back office files - filed by civic address

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier

145

Status

Published

Related Places

Exterior photo

Imperial / Bi-Capitol Theatre National Historic Site of Canada

Imperial / Bi-Capitol Theatre National Historic Site is an early 20th century theatre building facing onto King's Square, Saint John.

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