Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


Cutler Majestic Theatre

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Institution Name: Emerson College
Original/Historic Place Name: Majestic Theatre
Location on Campus: 219 Tremont St.
Date(s) of Construction:
1903original construction Howard, John Galen
Designer: John Galen Howard
Type of Place: Individual building
Style: Beaux-Arts classicism (Glossary)
Narrative: see below
References: see below
Foundation: concrete
Walls: terra cotta, granite, brick
Roof: concrete and steel with rubber membrane roofing
1903-present (2006)theater

According to a survey form completed by the Boston Landmarks Commission, the Majestic Theatre is "highly significant as a work of high exterior and interior quality, as the only known Boston building by nationally prominent architect John Galen Howard, and as one of three theatres built for the city by leading Boston merchant and music patron Eben Dyer Jordan." The Majestic was included in a series of articles on the American theatres written by Clarence Blackall for The Brickbuilder in 1908. It was singled out for its acoustics, its sightlines, and especially its elaborate interior lighting plan. Howard's plan replaced the traditional chandelier and candelabras with hundreds of individual light bulbs integrated into the architectural fabric of the auditorium and lobby. Both the interior and the exterior lighting are reminiscent of one of Howard's most widely noted works, the Electric Tower at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo in 1901. The Majestic lobby also features murals by noted muralist William de Leftwich Dodge, an artist who also painted ceiling murals in the Library of Congress.

When Emerson acquired the Majestic Theatre in 1983, it was a significant event for the college. At that time, the physical plant consisted primarily of Victorian-era brownstone residences whose interiors had been converted into the classrooms, computer labs, radio stations, television studios, and performance spaces necessary to support our curriculum. The purchase of the Majestic represented the first time that Emerson had acquired a structure specifically designed for the use it was intended. Initial work on the theatre, which had been closed for several years when Emerson purchased it, focused on bringing it up to code and back to active use. The refurbished theatre was used for Emerson sponsored performance and events, and it was also leased out to local non-profits. In 2001, the theatre was closed and has since undergone extensive restoration. The Majestic celebrates its centennial in 2003 and will reopen to its original grandeur of 1903 as a renewed asset to be used and enjoyed by the college and the community at large.


Fox, Pamela J. Theatre Area Preservation Study. Report. Boston, MA: Boston Landmarks Commission, June 1979.

Holloway, Will. "Truly Majestic." Clem Labine's Traditional Building 18 (June 2005): 30-32.

Jenkins, Candace. Piano Row District [Emerson College]. National Register of Historic Places designation report. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior/National Park Service, 1980.

Saxon Theatre/Majestic Theatre [Emerson College]. Building information form. Boston: Boston Landmarks Commission, [n.d.].


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Last update: November 2006