Port Hope Capitol Theatre
14, Queen Street, Port Hope, Ontario, L1A, Canada
Links and documents
Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
Located on Queen Street, just south of Walton Street in downtown Port Hope, the Capitol Theatre is a two-storey brick building designed with a 'castle' theme. Its vertical neon 'Capitol' sign is a landmark on the streetscape.
The Capitol Theatre has been recognized for its heritage value by the Municipality of Port Hope By-law #21/89, passed on February 27th, 1987.
The Capitol Theatre has been one of downtown Port Hope's best known landmarks since the 1930's. Port Hope's Capitol Theatre has national significance as the first theatre in Canada built expressly for 'talkies'. It is one of two surviving atmospheric cinemas in Canada, and the only one that has been restored.
With the advent of talking movies in the 1920's Famous Players began constructing new atmospheric theatres with various decorative themes in order to provide a true escape for patrons from the ongoing Depression. The Capitol Theatre in Halifax had a medieval castle theme, and the Saskatoon Capitol Theatre was designed with a Spanish interior. Both were designed by Murray Brown, a former President of the Ontario Association of Architects hired by Famous Players, and who also designed the Port Hope Capitol Theatre with a 'Norman Castle' theme. The Port Hope Capitol Theatre opened in the summer of 1930, when tickets were 37 cents for adults and 15 cents for children.
The Capitol Theatre is a unique example of cinematic architecture with its 'Norman Castle' theme, and was also the first building in the town of Port Hope to use steel girders in its construction. The diamond paned windows, stucco finish, and wrought iron balconies of the exterior hint at the castle theme so eloquently continued on the interior. Designed to make patrons feel as though they were in a medieval courtyard, the atmospheric theatre has walls and ceilings painted with frescoes depicting the sky, foliage and castle walls. A special projector called a brenograph was utilised to project stars and moving clouds on the ceiling, creating the illusion that patrons were sitting outdoors on a summer's star filled evening.
Source: Heritage Designation for 14 Queen Street: The Capitol Theatre By-law # 21/89.
Character-defining elements that express the heritage value include the:
- two storey stucco clad exterior with 'Norman Castle' details
- diamond paned windows
- wrought iron balconies
- 'drawbridge' style marquee
- exterior signage
- vertical neon 'Capitol' sign
- replica marquee
- restored lobby with art deco details
- frescoes on the walls and ceilings
- faux 'stone turrets' with lighted gable windows flanking the stage
- medieval decor pennants and banners
- proscenium arch
Local Governments (ON)
Ontario Heritage Act
Municipal Heritage Designation (Part IV)
Theme - Category and Type
Function - Category and Type
- Auditorium, Cinema or Nightclub
Architect / Designer
Location of Supporting Documentation
Heritage Designation Report for 14 Queen Street: The Capitol Theatre
Heritage Port Hope Files, Port Hope Town Hall, 56 Queen Street, Port Hope
Ganaraska Archives, Mill Street, Port Hope
Cross-Reference to Collection