The Dead and the Damned
Location: Bridgeport, Connecticut
Description: “Haunted” run-down theater in a bad section of town
The Aspect: Watch your step down here
The Face: “Elizabeth” – Phantom Doorman
In the heart of Bridgeport stands an abandoned 13-acre building complex that includes the Poli Palace, the Majestic Theater and the Savoy Hotel, each of which were once glorious edifices and now are empty and crumbling structures, home to rats, vagrants and … ghosts?
The Loew’s Poli Theater was built by theater impresario Sylvester Poli as a vaudeville house, and opened for business on Sept. 4, 1922. Designed by Thomas W. Lamb in the Beaux Arts style, it featured vaulted ceilings, gilded hand-carved moldings, seating for over 3,600 and a giant Hall theater organ. When it was erected, it was the largest theater in the state of Connecticut and hosted a string of renowned entertainers, including Mae West in 1927. Eventually renamed the Loew’s Palace Theater, it hosted live shows, concerts and events for decades before it officially closed in 1975 (after a brief stint as an adult movie house), and has been shuttered ever since. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979, along with the Majestic Theater.
The Majestic Theater, which has seating for 2,200, was also designed by Lamb, although it’s slightly smaller and bit less ornate. Still, it’s an impressive structure, very much in the style of the 1920s — lots of gold and red, crystal chandeliers, gilded moldings, high arching ceilings and detailed craftsmanship. It also opened in 1922 and served as a movie theater for years. It was closed in 1971.
The Savoy Hotel was in between the two theaters and offered 109 rooms on five floors. Like the Poli and Majestic, they don’t build ‘em like that any more — 10-foot ceilings, cement floors and plaster walls. The bathrooms, some of which were shared between guest rooms, featured pedestal sinks and claw-foot tubs. At one time, the rooms only were $1.50 each!