Saturday, January 28, 2012

Sepia Saturday #110 - Trent Theatre, Trenton, New Jersey

Trent Theatre postmarked 1906
This week's theme at Sepia Saturday is theatre and this postcard from Trenton, New Jersey depicts the Trent Theatre located at 17 North Warren in Trenton.  The theatre which had 1,139 seats opened on December 7, 1903 and was successful beyond all expectations for its Board of Directors including William S. Hancock and Harry C. Taylor, of the Taylor Opera House who undertook its construction.  The architect was Herman Probst, and the general contractor was James Rourke.  The manager  was Edward Rentor who came with considerable experience from the Ringling Brothers' Circus.  

5 Dec 1903 Trenton Times

By 1921, Walter Reade was made a partner and the theatre was known as "Reade's Trent." For most of New Jersey there were "blue laws" that forbid any merriment on Sundays such as music, singing or dancing which meant that theatres must be closed on that day . On Sunday, August 28, 1921, Reade and other Trenton theatre owners opened their theatres in defiance of the law. The theatre owners had petitioned the City Commission to open on Sunday but were met with much opposition. The theatre owners moved forward with opening that Sunday and 18,000 people attended the performances that day. The next Sunday, General C. Edward Murray gave deputy's badges to the sixty-five members of the Inter-Church Federation League. After the theatres opened they sent the audiences home and arrested the managers, cashiers and owners including Reade. Fines were paid and all agreed to stay closed on Sundays. By 1933, Trenton opted out of the state's blue laws. 

Trenton Times 1921

Ownership changed hands a couple more times and the theatre closed in 1972.  It was demolished in 1976 and replaced with a parking lot.


  1. According to Wikipedia Bergen County (NJ) has one of the last remaining Blue Laws in the US. The result being that one of the largest and most popular commercial shopping areas of the New York metropolitan area is almost completely closed on Sundays.

  2. I knew there blue laws prohibiting shopping and selling liquor, but I didn't know that they applied to theaters too.

  3. A very interesting post. Sunday observant restrictions have largely gone in the UK now although you can arrive at shops and find widely different opening times.

  4. How sad to be replaced by a parking lot. That opening night sounds wonderful.

  5. Sounds like the song, "They paved Paradise and put up a parkin' lot."

  6. What an interesting story! Trenton today is not Trenton of a century ago. But it is terribly sad that the old grande dame theaters have been demolished. I think Wendy nailed it in her post (above,)

  7. How sad! Another great old building is lost.

  8. I have seen other historic theaters replaced by parking lots too. So sad.

  9. No merriment on a Sunday! Well I guess they got their wish when the theatre was demolished. Shame when these grand building are lost.

  10. A-PARKING-LOT????????????????????????????????
    I was enjoying myself 'till you mentioned that....
    :(~ +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
    That sucks,
    and that happens way too often,
    though here, it's not as much parking lots any more as condos...

    Great post, still...

  11. Great post. I've never seen a report on a theater that included so many names, even stagehands and ushers. It's terrible how so many fine public buildings came down in the 70's.


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