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The Historic Theaters of Walnut Street – Philadelphia PA Said the oldest continuously operating theatre in the English-speaking world!

Posted on: March 19, 2018

Walnut Street in Philadelphia has 2 historic theaters – one being tres decorative both inside and out, while the other is a National Historic Landmark worth checking off your list!

The Forrest Theatre
Forrest Theatre Philadelphia 2018 Retro Roadmap

Built in 1927 the Forrest Theatre was named for named after Edwin Forrest, the famous 19th century actor.
Located at 1114 Walnut, it is the only historic Philly theatre using neon, running blade-like above the off-center entrance. Once you gaze above street level you’ll see Forrest Theatre carved into the white marble and surrounded by decorative incised-work. The trio of two-story arched windows, are flanked by corinthian pilasters and an eagle perched within a wreath looms above the entrance.

Inside the theatre the arch motif continues, in the decoratively painted ceiling of the grand foyer as well as above the staircase leading towards the auditorium. With seating for over 1800, some complain about the lack of leg room, but no one can deny the spectacular appearance of the newly refreshed decor, including the crystal chandelier hanging below a painted sunburst ceiling.

(Just imagine all of that, because they’re currently closed for the season and Mod Betty hasn’t been able to go in and take photos-YET. Or you can follow this link to their website to see a few photos ;-))

PLEASE NOTE! While the Forrest is currently “dark”, it is NOT closed permanently. Look forward to a full 2019 season of shows by checking their website here. 

The Walnut Street Theatre

Though there is little historic detail remaining (especially within) I would be remiss if I did not point out the Walnut Street Theatre just a few blocks away from the Forrest, as it is considered to be the oldest continuously operating theatre in the English speaking world, and the oldest in the United States.

Walnut Street Theatre Philadelphia 2018 Retro Roadmap

I purposely left that bus in the shot, as it was the day after the Super Bowl 2018!

Founded in 1809 it is also a place of firsts, including the first theatre to install gas footlights (1837), and feature air conditioning (1855). Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1966, the interior was modernized in 1969 (you can take this cool Google tour of the interior to see what I mean) but the classical revival style exterior gives hint to its historic past.