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Snapshot: Metropolitan Opera House

September 18, 2013

Post 2 in the Snapshot Series  – Occasionally in my travels I come across a theater that I can’t find a lot of information on, or that I only have a chance to photograph for an hour or two. They’re still beautiful and fascinating, so they definitely have a place on After the Final Curtain.

View of the auditorium from the side of the upper balcony.

View of the auditorium from the side of the upper balcony.

Philadelphia’s Metropolitan Opera House opened on November 17, 1908 as the Philadelphia Opera House. The 3,482 seat theater was built by architect William H. McElfatrick for Oscar Hammerstein, the grandfather of Oscar Hammerstein II, the famous musical theater lyricist. However, Hammerstein fell into debt and was forced to sell the opera house to one of his competitors, the Metropolitan Opera of New York City, after only two years.

The plasterwork at the top of the proscenium arch depicts two angels surrounding the state seal of Pennsylvania. In the center is the word Liberty, part of the state's motto.

The plasterwork at the top of the proscenium arch depicts two angels surrounding the state seal of Pennsylvania. In the center is the word Liberty, part of the state’s motto.

The MET occupied the building until 1920, after which several opera companies used it until the mid 1930s.  Over the years, the building went through many different uses, including as a movie theater in the late 1920’s, a ballroom in the late 1930’s and a sports arena in the 1940’s. The theater was then purchased by a reverend in 1954, who turned it into a church. The Met Church was very popular, often filling the mezzanine and the upper balcony. Over time the church’s congregation decreased, the owners were no longer able to keep up with repairs, and the building began to deteriorate.

The blue tarp was placed there to protect the church floor from falling plaster.

The blue tarp was put in place to protect the church floor from falling plaster.

In 1988, the church was forced to close due to serious disrepair. It remained abandoned until 1995 when it was purchased by the Reverend Mark Hatcher, Jr. and the Holy Ghost Headquarters, another church. The Holy Ghost have repaired some of the building, but due to the condition of the walls and the balcony level ceiling, they were forced to place a reinforced tarp between the balcony and main levels. Reverend Hatcher has attempted to raise money to restore the building, and in 2012 it was announced that the church had teamed with Philadelphia developer Eric Blumenfeld to develop a plan to restore the theater.

The theater's proscenium arch.

The theater’s proscenium arch.

© Matthew Lambros and After the Final Curtain, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Matthew Lambros and After the Final Curtain with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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12 Comments leave one →
  1. September 18, 2013 5:16 pm

    Love the plaster work.

  2. September 18, 2013 6:32 pm

    Please God don’t them restore this as a church.

    • September 18, 2013 9:14 pm

      I think the plan is going to be a mixed use venue. Church, Concert hall, etc.

      • September 18, 2013 9:17 pm

        Good. I hate to see these places turned into the next strip mall church.

      • September 18, 2013 9:25 pm

        More often than not becoming a church is the best thing that can happen to these theaters. They usually keep them in pretty good shape.

  3. Steve Wienrib permalink
    September 18, 2013 8:34 pm

    Hi.

    Anything back stage?

    • September 18, 2013 9:13 pm

      Hi Steve – The bottom half of the stage area is in use, so I’m pretty sure it’s been cleaned out.

  4. September 18, 2013 9:52 pm

    lovely, like a giant open clam. Proscenium sounds like such a dirty word – maybe a forbidden body part of a clam. .. . . Nice post!

  5. September 19, 2013 2:07 am

    Reblogged this on ladyauspicious.

  6. September 22, 2013 4:12 pm

    The Met has a cameo in the Bruce Willis movie “12 Monkeys”. See http://movie-tourist.blogspot.com/2013/07/12-monkeys-1995.html

  7. lbphilly permalink
    February 16, 2014 11:54 am

    Cross your fingers for us. We saw an experimental dance production in the ghost of the Met back at the 2009 Hidden City festival.

    http://hiddencityphila.org/2013/10/the-mets-next-revival/

  8. lbphilly permalink
    February 16, 2014 11:56 am

    P.S. Because of its excellent acoustics, the Met was long used as a recording venue for the Philadelphia Orchestra.

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