Posted by: Cornwall Community Museum | February 3, 2016



A Cornwall SAVE THE CAPITAL THEATRE BUTTON, 1987.  People still spell the name incorrectly as witnessed by the theatre’s commemorative mural, it should be CAPITOL.


The Capitol circa 1930 with the original marquee.

The Capitol opened on January 23, 1928, to a capacity crowd of 1,321.  After a concert, the crowd was given a ten minute tour of the theatre with the cameraman, and shown three movies.  They were impressed by the Greek revival plaster mouldings and brass railings in the lobby, and were left in awe of the “Spanish Courtyard” auditorium.


The ticket box, 1947. Unless otherwise noted, the photographs in this article were all donated in 1987 to the Museum by the theatre’s owner Hugh Fitzpatrick of Cornwall.


The Ladies Room in the Capitol Theatre, 1931.

scan0021scan0022 A very torn copy of the Souvenir Programme handed out during the Grand Opening of the Capitol Theatre.

scan0023The Capitol’s “Spanish Garden” auditorium, 1954.  The photograph was taken by W.M. Barclay of Cornwall.scan0024One wall of the Capitol’s auditorium.

Designed as an “atmospheric” theatre, the Capitol was one of 75 deluxe movie palaces built in Ontario between 1917 and 1930.  In these theatres it was the designer’s goal to transport the patron to someplace exotic – palatial.  Across North America this trend saw movie palaces turned into Egyptian Temples, Arab Mosques, and Chinese Gardens. In Cornwall, local architect G.J. Moore, and the construction form of Atchison & Co. created their version of a Spanish Courtyard at a total cost of $250,000.  To male the illusion work, the ceiling of the Capitol was turned into a screen on which a hidden projector “played” stars, clouds and other effects to produce “open sky.”  To complete the “courtyard” the walls were elaborately decorated with plaster columns, cornices, fans and galleries to make it feel as if the theatre was really enclosed by a garden wall.

Allied with Famous Players, the Capitol became the 10th theatre in Ontario, in 1929, to receive sound.  Five years later the Capitol’s sky was turned off.


Projection room, mid 1950s.



Members of the Save the Capitol Theatre committee picketing the theatre, 1987.

Tastes changed, large theatres became obsolete, and the Capitol closed on May 31, 1977 to be purchased by the Save the Capitol Theatre Committee.  The theatre reopened in Feb. 1978.  Eight years later the Committee declared bankruptcy, and the theatre closed again.


In the summer of 1991 the wrecking ball was taken to the theatre.


On July 12, 1991, at 11:45 a.m. the marquee was removed from the Capitol for the last time.  This photograph was taken by museum staff from the roof of the Seaway Building.




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