We’re super excited about this news. Located right across the street from The Workshop which includes the ScrantonMade downtown office; we know this is a huge positive thing for our community.
Developer to breathe life into vaudeville era theater
An investment group including developer Charles Jefferson has acquired a property at 335-339 Adams Ave., housing a 120-year-old theater recently known as the Moonshine. Earlier, it housed the Diva Theater. In the 1970s and early 1980s, it was owned by the Knights of Columbus, which hosted dances and social events there.
Mr. Jefferson’s group acquired the three-story, 20,000-square-foot building for $440,000 from a Queens, N.Y., businessman who bought it from a Scranton couple in 2004 for $168,000. He invested heavily in upgrades, including new electrical and ventilation systems and refinished floors.
“I love this place,” said Mr. Jefferson as he strolled through the structure Wednesday afternoon and admired the marble wainscoting along the main stairwell. “It’s got great history.”
He said his group plans to invest more than $1 million on renovations and open to the public in the fall. He is continuing to negotiate with a national concert promotion company to manage the facility or provide entertainers to perform there.
“More entertainment in the downtown will be terrific,” Mayor Bill Courtright said “I’m very excited about it.”
Mr. Jefferson, a Montgomery County businessman, heads a group that purchased Snö Mountain out of bankruptcy court for $5.1 million in 2013 and restored the Scranton recreation complex’s name to Montage. He also teamed with investors on the acquisition of the Connell Building and the Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce Building and spent millions converting both into commercial and residential structures.
“Everything that Charlie Jefferson has done has been first-rate,” Mr. Courtright said.
The theater, a two-story, second-floor gem hidden from street-level view, was constructed in 1894, and became known as Casino Hall before 1920. Mr. Jefferson said it will accommodate about 1,000 people, including 180 in the balcony’s original seats.
The theater hosted many performances during the vaudeville era, a variety entertainment genre that thrived from the late 1890s to the 1930s and brought musicians, singers, actors, dancers, comedians, magicians and acrobats together on a single bill.
Scranton had at least a dozen downtown theaters during vaudeville’s heydey, and the Adams Avenue site is the only one in its original state, said Mary Ann Moran-Savakinus, director of the Lackawanna Historical Society.
“He is going to be using it in the same way it was intended, to entertain the masses, which is wonderful,” Mrs. Moran-Savakinus said. “Any time we can see a historic space being utilized in a historic way is a great thing.”
One of the building’s outstanding features is an enclosed 3,500-square-foot saloon area featuring stainless steel from the 1930s, an antique mahogany bar, tin ceilings and paneled walls with mirrors. The property sale includes a liquor license.
Mr. Jefferson said he had pursued the building for five years before the purchase and was drawn to its proximity to Courthouse Square, the University of Scranton and the Commonwealth Medical College.
“This street, in a lot of respects, has been somewhat forgotten,” he said, looking out an anteroom window above Adams Avenue. “This will be a good venue and add to the story of the downtown.”
The ground-floor space was occupied for decades by Leonard’s, a hardware store that operated for 138 years before closing in 2003.
Now, the area is divided into three 1,800-square-foot spaces. One will be the theater’s box office, Mr. Jefferson said, another will house a retailer and the center spot will be a restaurant and bar with elevator service to the theater.
Read more here: Times Tribune