Savoy facade

The Savoy was originally built in the Colonial Revival style in 1913 near the intersection of 14th Street and Columbia Rd., NW. In 1916, the Savoy Theater company sold the building to Harry M. Crandall, Washington’s early movie mogul. The Savoy was his fourth theater, Crandall’s goal being to have a movie house in every Washington neighborhood.

After purchasing the Savoy, Crandall closed the theater for two months for extensive renovations. When he reopened in September of 1916, and after spending several thousand dollars more, the changes were reported as being so radical, with decorations so elaboration both inside and out, that patrons familiar with the old theater had a hard time believing the new Beaux Arts inspired structure was the same place.

Savoy lobby

The most striking change was the addition of a balcony, increasing the seating capacity to more than 1,400. To accommodate this, the roof was raised.

Savoy interior 1

Another distinctive feature was the marquise, which extended the entire width of the building. The spacious lobby was adorned by pillars of green marble, caen stone walls, gold lacquered mirrors, and art panels. The colors of the lobby were described as being primarily of ivory and rose.

Savoy interior 2

On the exterior, Crandall installed electric lights, including a great sign that flashed the name of the theater making it viewable for a considerable distance.

An interesting feature of the Savoy was a trellised open-air theater to the right and behind which allowed audiences to watch movies outside during Washington’s muggy summer evenings. This space later disappeared.

Savoy outdoor theater

Later, the Savoy enjoyed success as a third-run house, playing films exactly one week after they played at the Tivoli, the Tivoli charging 15 cents more than the Savoy’s ticket price of 40 cents ca. 1950.

Ultimately, the Savoy was burned in the April riots of 1968 and razed in 1971.

Kent Boese posts items of historic interest, primarily within the District. He’s worked in libraries since 1994, both federal and law, and currently works on K Street. He’s been an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner serving the northern Columbia Heights and Park View neighborhoods since 2011 (ANC 1A), and served as the Commission’s Chair since 2013. He has a MS in Design from Arizona State University with strong interests in preservation, planning, and zoning. Kent is also the force behind the blog Park View, DC.