The Star Theater 1888 - 1919


The Star Theater, c. 1900, viewed from Mohawk and Genesee. Image source: Roy Nagle Collection

The Star Theater, located at the corner of Pearl, Mohawk and Genesee Streets, opened as a legitimate theater on December 24, 1888. It passed through various hands until 1901, when Peter C. Cornell, M.D. gave up his medical career to follow his heart, becoming part owner and manager. At that time, plays staged in New York City traveled with their starring casts for weekly engagements in cities across the country. Buffalo was a major stop on the theater circuit and, by the early 20th century, the Star faced competition from the Teck, Shea's Court House Theater, and the Gayety Theater.

Maxine Elliott in a New Play

Clyde Fitch's "Her Own Way" Well Received in Buffalo

Buffalo, Sept 25. Maxine Elliott appeared at the Star Theater this evening in her new play, "Her Own Way," by Clyde Fitch, and in her first venture as an individual star, under the management of C. B. Dillingham. The play provides Miss Elliott with a congenial character in which she was the recipient of much applause. It is a satire on society. The stage effects are elaborate, and arranged with skillfulness of detail.

Miss Elliott was called before the curtain after each act. At the close of the third act Mr. Fitch was obliged to respond, and expressed his thanks and the thanks of the company for the generous reception.

New York Times, September 25, 1903


Maxine Elliot (1868 - 1940)


Location of the Star Theater, 1894. Image source: Buffalo City Atlas


Maude Adams as Peter Pan
In 1907, theatrical star Maude Adams, came to the Star Theater in her role as Peter Pan. She made a lasting impression on Manager Peter Cornell's teenage daughter, Katharine, who dated her determination to become an actress from this event.

 

Read the complete Star Theatre program from the week of May 16, 1910 here.

That week Billie Burke (right) starred in a comedy, "Mrs. Dot." Twenty nine years later she would star as Glinda, the Good Witch of the North in the "Wizard of Oz," and generations would forget her esteemed career in the legitimate theater.

In 1912, another theater was constructed near the Star, named the Majestic. In 1919, Peter Cornell moved to that theater and the Star became a movie house called The Criterion.


Criterion, 1924 Image source: Courier-Express


1950's Nirenstein map showing the E.W. Edwards store. Image source: private collection

In 1926, the building was demolished to make way for a new department store, E.W. Edwards & Son. The dry goods company, founded in 1832, had built stores in Syracuse and Rochester before coming to Buffalo in 1922 with a small leased presence. In 1925, the company purchased two properties and constructed a large building.



Advertising postcard from the 1926 opening of its new store. Image source: private collection.

At the end of 1952, the Edwards company closed its doors. The store at the corner of Mohawk, Genesee, and Pearl Streets was occupied by the IRS in 1957.

The location of the Star Theater/Edwards' store, as well as a portion of Genesee Street, was covered by the Convention Center in 1977.


Current Bing aerial view of the area. The orange trapezoid superimposed on the Convention Center roof
shows the location of the Star Theater/Edwards' Department Store.

Reference materials consulted for this pictorial included "Nine Nine Eight: The Glory Days of Buffalo Shopping,"
by Michael F. Rizzo.

Links to pictorials for other Buffalo legitimate theaters are below:

Erlanger Theater
Shea's Court House Theater
Teck Theater

Gayety Theater
The Majestic Theater

To read about Vaudeville in Buffalo, see the Spring 2005 Heritage Magazine.

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