Nestled in the heart of Downtown Binghamton, the People's Theatre building boasts a remarkable history of entertaining generations of theater-goers and sadly, many people don't know the story behind this once-popular landmark.

As a vaudeville and movie venue, the People’s Theater, located on Water Street, was a place where viewers could escape for a few hours to enjoy fun, laughter, and entertainment.

The story of the People's Theatre began in 1913 when A.W. Newman, a local jeweler, felt the need for a new, more intimate venue for performing arts and movies in Binghamton.

Newman closed his jewelry store and employed Albert Willey to build a five-story building to house his grand vision. The theater was eventually constructed on the ground floor of this newly-built Willey Block and would be known as the People’s Theatre.

When it opened its doors to the public on July 6, 1914, the theater had already earned its reputation as 'one of the most modern structures of its character in the country.' Built with reinforced concrete, it was promoted as an 'absolutely fireproof photoplay house' that could hold up to 400 people. The intimate theater was adorned with lavish architectural features, including an ornate glass marquee, columned facade, classical trim, grand staircases, and elegant chandeliers.

For 16 years, the People's Theatre had catered to the entertainment needs of the city's residents however, on September 27, 1930, it closed down. The press reported that its owner, Jesse C. Hilman, planned to replace the theater with an indoor miniature golf course.

To accomplish his grand plan, Hilman removed the front and rear of the theater along with the seats, furniture, and movie equipment. The work was slated to be completed by October 15 of the same year. Perhaps not surprisingly, this plan didn’t pan out as the excitement over the indoor miniature golf sizzled out and the business closed only two years later.

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Three years later, the theater found a new lease of life as "The People’s Dance Palace," a nightclub. It would then become known as the "People's Palace," and then "People's Restaurant." In 1938, the business closed.

In 2012, the Water Street Brewing Company opened in the former People's Theater however, it would close after 12 years in the early part of 2024.

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