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 was renamed the Olympia Theater, Lynch’s Pleasant Theater, later the Fine Arts Theater, and finally the New Art Cinema. The venue for countless performances and screenings over more than a century, the four story structure houses retail on its ground floor, with the theater concealed behind boarded windows 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. Its plain exterior hides the fading charm of the theater’s original interior plaster work and decorative painting found on its 125-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. This is Lothrop’s Opera House/ Olympia Theater’s first appearance on Preservation Worcester’s Most Endangered Structures List.