In 2013, developer John Schlupp of Classic Renovations, Quakertown purchased the Palace Theater building and began renovating and restoring the inside and out. Above, Schlupp holds a 1950's leaflet announcing the week's movies, which was found inside the building along with several old posters for shows which played in the movie house.
The roaring 1920s was a time known for prohibition, baseball and Charlie Chaplin. The era brought advancements in entertainment with silent films later transformed into talking motion pictures.
Quakertown was no stranger to onstage variety shows, silent films, and the more advanced talking movies projected onto a screen for a packed house.
The borough is home to a plentiful history, including numerous buildings that, if they could speak, would tell tales of what life was like centuries ago. One particular building under current renovations is the old Palace Theater, 117 W. Broad Street, most recently known as Dimmig Appliance.
In 1922, the building was designed and erected by architect Jerome S. Landes of Souderton who also designed the Grand Theater on Main Street in East Greenville.
The Palace Theater quickly became a hot spot within the borough, starting out with vaudeville style (variety) shows, then progressing to silent films, followed by talkies (talking motion pictures of the early 1920s).
By the 1970s, however, a family-owned appliance store (Dimmig Appliance) purchased the property after the theater faltered and remained at the location until 2010. In 2013, developer John Schlupp of Classic Renovations, Quakertown purchased the property and since that time has been renovating the building.
"It was a no brainer for me to purchase this building. With it's great location, great price, and with it's own parking lot, I had to do it," Schlupp remarked.
Since the purchase, Schlupp has uncovered the beauty and history of the building and envisions a future filled with customers indulging in great food and great entertainment. While renovations were in full swing, Schlupp discovered several crates marked "Palace Theatre seating, keep dry." Several rows of theater seats from the 1920s were removed from the crates and Schlupp said he plans to display them somewhere inside the establishment.
Hidden behind beams and insulation in the attic of the building were also old posters from the silent movie era, Schlupp said. "One was even a hand-painted movie poster. They are worth a lot of money but were hidden in the attic," he added.
Plans are to display the posters inside glass cases with LED lighting which are original to the property and located at the front entrance of the building.
Schlupp's original plan for the space involved a bakery with separate side entrance, the larger portion of the 10,000 sq. ft. space housing a brewery/pub style restaurant, and another leaseable space towards the front of the building. However, the interested party in the bakery portion is now on hold, Schlupp said.
Schlupp said several interested parties have toured the building and are willing to open a brew/pub but none of those plans are finalized.
While the owner is shy about discussing finances publicly, he said the total cost of renovations thus far are less than $1 million.
"It has cost hundreds of thousands so far but not $1 million," he said.
Extensive renovations of the property have included the placement of a large $20,000 arch-style window on the front of the building's second story, sandwiched between two, two-bedroom occupied apartments as well as side windows. Schlupp also removed the drop-style ceiling inside the building which hid original mouldings, a large amount of unused space and portions of a painted design original to its theater days.
Unfortunately, the painted design could not be salvaged as Schlupp explained there were too many holes that had to be drilled to add lighting.
The back interior of the building contained a large plaster wall that was chipped away to show the original brick work from 1922 as well as the floor exposed that had been built overtop the old vaudeville stage.
Schlupp has brought the building up to Americans with Disabilities Act standards by taking away the front entrance step and opening the access to the doorway with a sloped walkay as well as updating the interior.
His vision for the property is colorful and worthy of a listen if you are able to stop in and chat. His ideas would see the old stage remain for monthly live entertainment and the expanse of the open floor plan having tables set up for dining with the possibility of bringing back the "dinner and a movie concept." At this point, he is open to hearing ideas from any type of business owner with an interest in the property, he said.
"There is space available for seating up to 275 people, front and side access, handicap accessibility, and a liquor license with the property," Schlupp explained.
The side parking lot has 15 spaces available as well as public parking behind the building with easy access. The front of the building on the opposite side of Broad Street provides parking as well.
Schlupp is aware of the possibility of parking and traffic pattern changes in the near future but denies any worry that it would affect a business at the location. If anything, the prospect of angled parking on Broad Street and only one lane of traffic will create a better way to enter the building, he said.
"A traffic study done a few years back says 20,000 vehicles pass by this building every day. There is no trouble with people seeing this building," he remarked.
Schlupp encourages any interested parties to tour the building and notes that on Wed., Sept. 3 Fox29 News will be broadcasting their morning show live from 7-10 a.m. on W. Broad Street. He is hoping to have visitors tour the location and welcomes the opportunity for a committed lessee or buyer.