above is all that remained of the once stately Capitol Theater, corner of First
and Chestnut Streets, Nanty Glo, following its destruction by a suspicious fire
on January 2, 1968. There are few people alive today that knew that the Capitol
was the first theater building built in the eastern states specifically as a sound
theater. When talkies began to appear in theatres across the country, existing
buildings were quickly retrofitted with power units and speakers. When the grand
opening of the Capitol was held in September 1929, people from large cities like
Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and New York came to Nanty Glo, many of them by train that
stopped at the station a half block away, just to hear the motion pictures.
first midnight movie, shown on September 13, 1929, and starred Al Jolson. Over
400 people attended that showing. The structure was four stories high, but interestingly
enough did not have any balcony area. Acoustical tiles filled the ceiling and
four-story-high red velvet drapes covered the walls, all used to enhance the sound
system of that day.
The large marquee that was on the Chestnut Street side,
at what today is the entrance to the U.S. Post Office, was not installed until
September 1938. The steel framework for the unit weighed about two tons and was
filled with hundreds of multicolored lights, and also flickering neon light tubes.
In addition to movies, if you attended on certain nights, you could play
bingo or collect pieces to make up a set of dishes. Occasionally, there were live
performances on stage, and once it became the site for graduation ceremonies for
the then Nanty Glo High School. The theatre also served as a temporary church
for Sunday masses in the 1950s when an addition was being added to Nanty Glo's
St. Mary's Church.
Photo by William L. Martin