Hagerstown's Maryland Theater

The History

The Maryland Theater was opened on May 15,1915 on South Potomac Street in Hagerstown. The theater still stands there today nearly eighty-three years later! It was designed by the famous American architect, Thomas Lamb who had designed many other famous theaters such as the Madison Square Garden. The red carpet, pillars, and marble stairs helped make the construction of the theater add up to about $200,000. Seating was available for 2,500 people including 1,000 seats on the main floor, 1,200 seats on the on the balcony, and box seats on the side wall.

The Maryland Theater, Hagerstown, MD
In the early years the theater saw mostly live entertainment and silent movies. In the beginning the Alsatia Club would put on a minstrel show every year until racism became an issue. Also very popular were the amateur shows featuring the local talents. In 1928, Al Johnson starred in "The Jazz Singer" which was the first talking movie that played at the Maryland Theater. In the 1930's and into the 1940's came many big name stars to perform there. People like Will Rogers, Debby Reynolds, and Tex Ritter appeared at the theater mostly to promote films or to sell war bonds. 
In 1934 a man by the name of John Hersh came to work for the theater as an usher. Eventually he became a manager, and along with his family he lived in an apartment on the fourth floor of the building.

Through the 1960's movie attendance fell due to the great popularity of the drive-ins and the increasing number of families who owned their own televisions. So, in November of 1973 the Maryland Theater was forced to close.

Three months after they closed the theater a huge fire broke out that could not be brought under control for six hours. Both the entrance area and the lobby were destroyed along with four floors of the apartments, including the one that the Hersh family lived in. Ironically enough, John Hersh, Jr., was one of the firefighters on duty that night. Luckily, the auditorium was left unharmed. Many different people bought the theater in hopes of restoring it, but this was too costly and nobody succeeded.

A wrecking crew was preparing to save the Maryland Theater when a group of citizens led by two local contractors, Jack Garott and Steve Sager, started a campaign to "Save the Maryland Theatre!" Over $225,000 was raised and the theater was completely restored in under two years.

The Maryland Theater

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