Lothrop’s Opera House (Olympia Theater)
17-27 Pleasant Street
Opened in 1891 as Lothrop’s Opera House, the imposing brick edifice located at 17-27 Pleasant St. in the heart of Worcester’s downtown, is the oldest remaining theater in the city. The theater, designed by architects Cutting and Forbush, once hosted some of the city’s most prominent acts. The venue was renamed the Olympia Theater, Lynch’s Pleasant Theater, later the Fine Arts Theater, and finally the New Art Cinema, playing host to countless performances and screenings spanning three centuries of our City’s history. The four-story structure currently houses retail on its ground floor, with the once bustling theater concealed behind boarded windows on the upper floors. Little has changed about the building’s exterior since the 19th century, apart from superficial modifications at the first floor. A pair of recessed wall panels dominates the center of the Pleasant St. face of the building, topped by matching, elegant semi-elliptical lights. The lack of ornamentation on the building’s red/brown masonry façade does little to communicate the fading charm of the theater’s interior. While suffering from neglect, much of the building’s original plaster work remains visible, including the geometric design of the 125-year-old ceiling. The building is included in a district of buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Shuttered in January, 2006, the theater remains vacant, while retail activity has continued in its’ modified storefronts. Targeted within the Worcester Redevelopment Authority’s Downtown Urban Revitalization Plan as a potential “Building to be Demolished,” Worcester’s oldest remaining theater is in imminent danger. This is Lothrop’s Opera House/ Olympia Theater’s third appearance on Preservation Worcester’s Most Endangered Structures List.