Lothrop’s Opera House (Olympia Theater)
17-27 Pleasant Street
Opened in 1891 as Lothrop’s Opera House, this imposing brick edifice is the oldest surviving theater in the city. Designed by architects Cutting & Forbush, it continued in use as a theatre, being renamed over time the Olympia Theater, Lynch’s Pleasant Theater, Fine Arts Theater, and finally the New Art Cinema. The venue for countless performances and screenings over more than a century, this four-story structure houses retail on the ground floor, with the theater auditorium on the upper floors. A pair of recessed wall panels dominates the center of the Pleasant Street face of the building, topped by matching, elegant semi-elliptical lights.
The severe, asymmetrical design of the building’s yellow/brown Roman brick façade is characteristic of 19th theatre architecture. The high quality of its materials and construction reflect its turn-of-the-20th-century date of construction. The building’s plain exterior hides the fading charm of the theater’s original interior plaster work and surviving decorative painting found on its 126-year-old ceiling. The building is included in a district listed on the National Register of Historic Places – one of the city’s few downtown rows preserving its original urban density and integrity.
Shuttered in January 2006, the theater remains vacant, while retail activity has continued in its’ modified storefronts. Recently included in the Worcester Redevelopment Authority’s Downtown Urban Revitalization Plan as a potential “Building to be Demolished,” Worcester’s oldest remaining theater is in potential danger. The building appeared on the 2016 Preservation Worcester Most Endangered Structures List.