From D.J. Brigham, Esq.
I was shocked when I walked past this building on a tiny side street in Boston's Chinatown neighborhood. I'd walked by here a year prior and never noticed this place. This is Knapp Street, literally a few steps around the corner from a bust of William Shakespeare on the exterior wall of Sweet Kingdom Dessert (see January 22, 2017, "Little Ado About Shakespeare"). This is why my head is always on a swivel when I'm walking just about anywhere -- it's not easy to see everything there is to see on just a single visit.
So what are we looking at here? This is simultaneously the front door of Jia Ho SuperMarket and the back wall of Empire Garden Restaurant. Both of those establishments are located within a building on Washington Street that had a long history as a theater. Built in 1903 as the Globe Theatre, this place was known over the years as the Center Theatre, EM Loews, The Pagoda and the Loews Globe Theatre. In its later years it was a burlesque and grindhouse theater, according to many people online. The Publix Theatre was across the street, and the Pussycat Lounge was next door back when this area was known as the Combat Zone, loaded with strip clubs, peep theaters and prostitutes. The only remnants of those days are Centerfolds and the Glass Slipper, the former of which is part of a chain, the latter of which is a polished up version of the old Combat Zone classic.
(Centerfolds and the Glass Slipper.)
The Jia Ho grocery store was, according to this article, once the orchestra pit for the theater, while the Chinese eatery was the mezzanine. Check out this blog post for an idea of the splendor of this space.
One day I hope to eat at Empire Garden and shoot some interior photos. For now, though, I'm fascinated by this back wall. The windows on the upper floors are shuttered and barred, and don't look like they are used any more. The caution sign indicates that someone, or something, used to gain access to the windows. The sign doesn't look that old, and probably dates to the building's latter days as a theater, which ended in 1995.
For perspective on the theater's history and links to old photos, maps and postcards, check out this page at Cinema Treasures. To see a photo of the front of Empire Garden, and read more comments about the history of the building, check this Cinema Treasures link. For additional photos, go here.