by Noriko Kitano


Unless otherwise stated, photos appear courtesy of Friends of the Gaiety

Historic theater awaits wrecking crane in neighborhood ambivalent about its loss

For nearly a century, the Gaiety Theater on Washington Street was a place where hundreds of shows took place. But soon, it may be no more. If the Boston Redevelopment Authority approves Kensington Investment Co.'s proposal for a new high-rise apartment complex in the Chinatown/Midtown Cultural District, the 95-year-old Gaiety will be demolished. Efforts to rejuvenate the neighborhood, once known as the "Combat Zone," have produced several luxury apartment towers in recent months, including the Millennium and Ritz-Carlton towers and Liberty Place on Washington Street, which will be completed in 2005. Residents have been torn between their desire to improve the neighborhood with new developments or restore the aging but historic theater. A decision in April by the Boston Landmark Commission has likely sealed its fate. CONTINUE

Rich History on the Stage

More than 100 years ago, the Chinatown/Midtown Cultural District was a Mecca for the African-American working-class culture in Boston. With 15 theaters, Washington Street bustled with theatergoers. People loved to go to the Gaiety for inexpensive shows. The Gaiety was the primary home to African-American and immigrant performers whose opportunities to play on the stage were restricted elsewhere by racial intolerance. CONTINUE

The Gaiety today

The Gaiety is hidden by the shops in a six-story redbrick building. Few people can identify it from the outside. The condition of the theater has become severely water-damaged over two decades. Much of its uniqueness is gone, but some of the original features remain. The Friends of the Gaiety believes that the Gaiety can be restored and regain its beauty. CONTINUE



- Lower Washington Street in 1925

-Lower Washington Street in the 1990's

- LaGrange Street in 1907

-The Gaiety Theatre in 1941

- The Gaiety now

- Back view of the Gaiety today

-Inside view of the Gaiety today

- The only one remaining plaster bust of the Gaiety Girl

- Kesington Place

- The Kesington Place proposal

- The architect Clarence Howard Blackall

- Performers at the Gaiety

- Butterbeans and Susie: a legendary couple in life and on stage

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