Poli Palace, Majestic Theater & Savoy Hotel, Bridgeport

August, 2010 by Ray Bendici
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All images by Ray Bendici -- click to enlarge

The Damned Story: In the heart of Bridgeport stands an abandoned 13-acre building complex that includes the Poli Palace, the Majestic Theater and the Savoy Hotel, each of which were once glorious edifices and now are empty and crumbling structures, home to rats, vagrants and ... ghosts?

The Loew's Poli Theater was built by theater impresario Sylvester Poli as a vaudeville house, and opened for business on Sept. 4, 1922. Designed by Thomas W. Lamb in the Beaux Arts style, it featured vaulted ceilings, gilded hand-carved moldings, seating for over 3,600 and a giant Hall theater organ. When it was erected, it was the largest theater in the state of Connecticut and hosted a string of renowned entertainers, including Mae West in 1927. Eventually renamed the Loew's Palace Theater, it hosted live shows, concerts and events for decades before it officially closed in 1975 (after a brief stint as an adult movie house), and has been shuttered for almost 40 years. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979, along with the Majestic Theater.

The Majestic Theater, which has seating for 2,200, was also designed by Lamb, although it's slightly smaller and bit less ornate. Still, it's an impressive structure, very much in the style of the 1920s -- lots of gold and red, crystal chandeliers, gilded moldings, high arching ceilings and detailed craftsmanship. It also opened in 1922 and served as a movie theater for years. It was closed in 1971.

The Savoy Hotel was in between the two theaters and offered 109 rooms on five floors. Like the Poli and Majestic, they don't build 'em like that any more -- 10-foot ceilings, cement floors and plaster walls. The bathrooms, some of which were shared between guest rooms, featured pedestal sinks and claw-foot tubs. At one time, the rooms only were $1.50 each!

There has been talk of renovating both theaters, but like many other plans of Bridgeport revitalization, it all has seemingly fallen by the wayside, especially in the current economic environment.

So what happened at these places that make people think they could be haunted? Maybe the oldest haunting "excuse" in the book -- the buildings could actually be built on an ancient Indian burial ground! When the buildings were first built, native American artifacts were found, and since the Golden Hill Paugussets had a settlement nearby, it's been speculated that the construction may have disturbed old graves.

Others speculate it could be gangster Dutch Schultz, who bootlegged alcohol in Bridgeport during Prohibition, and possibly did other "work" out of the Savoy hotel: Two people were murdered in the second-floor lobby during that time. Crossed gangsters seeking revenge?

Over the decades, the abandoned buildings have also seen their fair share of other crimes and unfortunate events, any of which could leave behind "negative energies."

In addition to many orb photos taken here, eyewitnesses claimed to have seen shadow figures moving around the theater. Numerous EVPs have also been recorded here.

Our Damned Experience: With our friend Bridgeport police sergeant James Myers of 826 Paranormal and his partner Martin Vincze of the East Coast Paranormal Police, we visited the Poli, Majestic and Savoy in August 2010.

Let's just say this right up front: Even though scheduling conflicts required us to visit during the day, this is still one of the creepiest places we've ever been to, haunted or not. Each of these buildings were obviously architectural gems in their heyday, and now that they have been allowed to fall into ruin, a sense of sadness and loss sort of permeates throughout.

We started off in the Poli, which Jim refers to as, "My baby." As a Bridgeport police officers, he and Martin have been in this building many, many times, searching for vagrants or trespassers, and know their way around well, which is important considering that even in the middle of the day, the place is very dark and dangerous -- there are a few lights that the police have set up, but many of these have been vandalized, especially on the upper floors, which are almost in complete darkness.

Broken glass and plaster is strewn all around, and many walls feature exposed wires and pipes. Curtains hang in tatters, rugs are filthy, moldings are shattered and more than once, Jim and Martin caution to not step in certain places so no one falls through the floor. The air is thick with dust, which swirls around in the flashlight's beam like snow in a flurry. Despite all the decay, the former opulence is clearly apparent at every turn.

We went through the enormous lobby and then up to the second floor -- there was lots of garbage and other signs that trespassers frequent the place. We explored the impressive upper lobby and side wings, as well as the main hall. If the place wasn't creepy enough already, on the main stage was a single old-style baby carriage.

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Again, it was pretty dark everywhere -- we were only able to get good, clear images when we placed the camera down and took extended exposure pictures or when we used a flash. Jim used his point-and-shoot camera to try and capture orb images; we had a conventional SLR and weren't able to capture any orbs. We also didn't see or hear anything paranormal here.

Jim and Martin both talked about previous experiences in the building -- in addition to the multiple orb photos he's taken here, Jim has repeatedly seen "dark shadows" move down staircases and through walls and has heard odd noises, including the muffled hum of a crowd.

We went back down past the stage (careful not to step on it as it would've given way with our weight) by the (Rosemary's?) baby carriage, then through the backstage area and dressing rooms before going over to the adjoining Majestic Theater.

The Majestic wasn't nearly as impressive as the Poli, either in terms of former grandeur or current creepiness. We crossed the creaky stage behind the fire curtain at our own peril, went around the curtain (which Jim and Martin estimate cost over $1 million, and is clearly a work of art) and then head out into the audience area. The seats are gone, and in their place are staging and props from the nearby Downtown Cabaret Theatre. Between the main hall and the lobby is an enormous original Tiffany window, but it is boarded up for its own protection.

We ascended up into the projection room where the original projectors are still sitting -- they're rusted and defaced, but it's crazy that someone left what probably was at one point expensive equipment behind. Then again, after seeing the inside of these buildings, it's amazing that these once-lavish places were left to simply rot.

From the top floor of the Majestic, we crossed the roof and went into the Savoy Hotel. More of the same in that seemingly every room and hallway was in complete shambles -- peeling paint, shattered windows, missing doors and tons of pigeon crap. (Side note: Nothing will make you jump out of your skin like a pigeon flapping out of a darkened window in an abandoned hallway.)

We carefully went through rooms and the various floors, moving from shadowy corners and halls into brighter light. The place really looked like it could be the set for a horror movie -- we almost expected to see the twins from The Shining around every corner. Finding the "Sick Children" room and a wall with the hand prints of young children did nothing to dispel this, even if they look like they were added more recently.

Martin pointed out the room where on another visit, while doing EVP work, he asked any spirits there to announce their presence. When they played back the audio, he says you can clearly hear the voice of a young girl saying, "Hellooo!" to their request. (Goosebumps, right?)

We didn't hear any voices, even when we went through the hotel's second-floor lobby where the aforementioned murders occurred. Nor did we see or photograph anything unusual during our entire visit. Still, a pretty cool place to visit under the right circumstances.

Again, a big thanks to Jim and Martin of 826 Paranormal and ECPP for taking us out with them.

If You Go: The Poli, Majestic and Savoy complex is located at 1325 Main Street in Bridgeport. It is boarded up and off limits to the public, with no trespassing allowed.

Of course, that hasn't stopped vandals, vagrants and amateur ghost hunters from breaking in. Just be aware that if you do try to visit without any sort of official permission, you are doing so illegally and will be arrested if caught on the property.

In the past, 826 Paranormal has offered tours of the complex, although there are no current plans to do so.

Notes about photos: As mentioned earlier, most of the complex is shuttered, so it's very dark and shadowy, even in the middle of the day. I took lots of images either with a flash or by an extended exposure, so it looks like the place is much brighter than it really is. Most times, when I looked through the viewfinder, it was pitch black, so that explains why Jim and Martin often look a little surprised in pictures -- we are all in the dark and then POP! my flash goes off. (There are more pics in the second gallery.)

You can also see these pics with captions on our Damned Connecticut Facebook page.

View 1325 Main St in a larger map

Comments

Submitted by SimonGodOfHairdos (not verified) on

Very cool! I love the pictures; I used to drive by the theaters all the time, and I've always wanted to see the inside (though it would be impossible because of the rodents). If I ever win the Powerball jackpot, one of the things I would do is restore an Art Deco theater, so I'll put the Poli on my list. :)

Damned Ct.
Great article once again. I am glad you enjoyed yourself on the mini tour. I wish it was at night , and had more time. When we shut down all the lights or even when we have to search this place during power outages, it is pretty creepy to some. I think you need to come down to Remington Arms ... at least before they finish knocking it down. The place got its knock out punch on 8/27 when fire took the place to its final wrecking ball.

Let me know.... I will send pics your way....

Submitted by FriK (not verified) on

Would Have Loved to have gone and photo document and investigate the Remington, so much history will be lost, such a shame.... wouldn't mind doing the same with the Majestic and Poli, I would even do a Fashion Shoot at the Theatre, so many ideas to keep those places ALIVE...

Submitted by Bo Steinkle (not verified) on

These 2 theatres will never be renovated because bridgeport has always been too corrupt politically. And now it is too late. It has been 1971-40 years ago that the Majestic closed followed by the Palace in 1975. If no one has done anything by now, no one will.

Submitted by Al Domian (not verified) on

I grew up in the Poli and Majestic theater. My father managed the theaters and worked for Loew's for over thirty years. He met my mother there and married her in 1938. My father passed in 2003 at the age of 93. Before he passed he shared a number of amazing stories about the place. I spent many a Saturday and Sunday with my father watching the matinee. I was a popular kid and often brought 7 or 8 friends with me.
To see the theater in ruins is heartbreaking. The place was beautiful! I did a paper on the theaters when I was in HS and really learned a great deal about the history of the place. We have hundreds of pictures and movie adds from the theater's glory years. In addition to the Poli and Majestic Loew's had two other theaters across the street, The Globe and the Lyric. Many cities around the country have restored theater's of far less grandeur and beauty. It is a sin that it didn't happen in Bpt. If the place is haunted it's not with the ghosts of any gangsters, indians or murder victims. They would be the ghosts of the many performers that graced the stage who couldn't rest seeing one of the most beautiful theaters in the country in ruin.

Submitted by Kevin (not verified) on

I tried to do some research about the Savoy and came up empty handed. Some people say that if you can't find it online, you're not looking hard enough, but I tried. It's probably safe to assume the hotel closed either at the same time or long before the theaters closed. I remember going to see movies at the Poli and Majestic when I was younger (in the late 1960s) and as I recall, the hotel doors were boarded up back then.

Submitted by Jerome (not verified) on

What year did the Savor Hotel close? Did the theater close the same time and date?

Submitted by Kevin (not verified) on

Great article. I also really appreciated the pictures. They brought back tons of memories and you are right. The way things appear now is very sad. I remember the last movie I saw at the Majestic before it closed was The Beatles' Yellow Submarine. In fact, for years the Yellow Submarine movie poster hung in the outside display case (near the entry) for years after it closed.

Submitted by Alfred Domian (not verified) on

My father managed the theaters for Loews until the mid 60's. He didn't own the theaters! Loews decided to close/sell the theaters not my father! I don't remember the name of the people that bought them and ran them until the early 70's. The Poli/Palace was just too big to operate running just movies. TV changed people's entertainment choices. It would have been ideal for an arts center with live shows, plays etc. I believe a fight over taxes between the final owner and the City of Bpt made it difficult for them to be sold.

Submitted by john (not verified) on

to al since your father managed it why did he shut it down? or what caused it to be shut down?if it was that great why wouldnt your father keep it open?

Submitted by Abby (not verified) on

Such a shame that such beauty has not been restored. The structure itself in its current state is breath-taking. If it would be renovated it would bring a much needed sense of sophistication and exquisiteness to Bridgeport.

Submitted by stephanie (not verified) on

thank you so much for posting this artical. it is sad but amazing to hear of such places of my father's youth. he has told me he used to go here in the 40's and 50's to watch cartoons, rock shows and even remembers the Globe Theater as well. he grew up in Bridgeport Ct. and worked for the Bridgeport Brass Co. .... he lived there for 47 years. he is STILL very proud of BPT. and remembers it fondly as it once was. he tells me stories often of the days spent of Pleasure Beach, the shows on the green, drag racing in his hot rod down main street on the weekends.... and SO much more.

it was a truly beautiful place to be back then, too bad places like these have been tossed aside and forgotten... i hope one day *not too soon so it won't go into more disrepair* someone will come along and offer tours and make it grand agagin. show that BPT has history and heart.

thanks again for the beautiful artical.

Submitted by Jason (not verified) on

Makes my heart hurt seeing such a wonderful theatre in ruins. Why is no one making an effort to save these places? I mean there is so much good happening now in downtown Bridgeport, so why are these theatres being overlooked? There is so much that can be done with them!

Submitted by JPL (not verified) on

I spearheaded a project for a while that was aiming to renovate these theatres. It is plain and simple to say that the government was uncooperative and clearly operating in a corrupt manner. I should point out that through all of the red tape, and barricades they threw our way, we finally were able to get a team of theatrical architects in to look at the place. They renovate many Broadway houses, and did the Waterbury Poli theatre renovation several years ago. They estimated $60-80 Million dollars to renovate the two theatres. We tossed around a number of ideas on what could be next steps, after finally realizing that in the middle of a recession there was simply nothing that could be done. It's sad, really. These theatres are in a prime location: on the same block as the Bridgeport police station, not two minutes away from the state police station, one block from the entrance/exit ramp to the 25 connector (leading, of course, to I95), and with ample empty lot space across the street to build a parking lot, as well for shops to reopen to regenerate business. This project would give business to hundreds of laborers, planners, and managers that need work desperately.

It should also be mentioned that these theatres are enormous: one is 2600 seats, and the other is 3400 seats. We faced the question of whether or not spaces of this size were sustainable, or whether they would have to be converted. We believed, and still do, that one of these theatres would be sustainable because even when factoring in the Klein Theatre (also in Bridgeport) there are few theatres in the area that could handle performances of the caliber that could be performed here.

Oh well, sadly, money and politics play a huge roll in this. I will always love these theatres, and I will never forget walking into those cold, damp, musky, yet absolutely stunning spaces. There is an unmistakable beauty to them. I had a team of theatrical and business professional of over twenty people, and we all agreed.

Submitted by Jen (not verified) on

If there is someone I can contact about getting in legally, that would be great. It's such a gorgeous place and my photo gallery is lacking something like this!

Submitted by V.D.L. (not verified) on

I was very excited when I started to read this article. I've passed these places hundreds of times and they have always made me curious. Seeing these buildings just rot is very saddening. To lose such beauty and history is simply heart-breaking. Bridgeport could really use places like that. And it seems it's not just old theaters and hotels. Alot of places in downtown Bridgeport are abandoned or being remodeled into something new and modern. I think it just takes away from the history and beauty.
This was a very informational article that is much appreciated.
-V'eona

Alfred Domian: I worked as a Head usher with Al Domian as my boss, He was a Great Boss,he was the Assistant Manager, he hired me above over a 100 answers
to an ad in the BPT Post. It was great,working there.
Later I got an assistant usher, forget his name.
I saw "Jailhouse Rock" more than 30 times, and "The King and I ", the same.
The Globe was just getting torn down,and made a few bucks on it.
He pretty much left me alone, except when we had a (Full),House, then
I worked hard.The manager was an OLD guy, that barely could walk, and he
would visit, from time to time.Was an avid movie goer, so realized that the Poli,
was the ultimate place to work in Bridgeport,as an usher.A fellow schoolmate
worked at the Majestic.The old man that took tickets, called AL, Mr. Domain !
Thanks Poli, for a Great time ! Hope you get a buyer, and renovate.

Submitted by Paul Lanning (not verified) on

There are billions of ghosts in there. Abandoned space is inhabited by the souls and spirits of all who have been there. Everywhere you go, your non-physical component stays on indefinitely after you leave. Everyone who ever went to these theaters or visited the hotel is still there in spirit.

Uhhh, These places were razed?? They are family named theaters are were part of a whole series of Poli Theaters throughout the Northeast. Coincidentally, I do historic theater restorations in NYC. Let me know if I can pitch in.

Submitted by Lauren (not verified) on

Would there be a chance of getting permission to go through and take photos like you guys did? I am really interested in this place and would love to take pictures, but I don't want to go without a guide and without permission. Any help would be appreciated. Thank you!

Submitted by Tina Bush (not verified) on

I was born in Bridgeport and I would love to take a tour of this incredible historic site while I can. Please contact me with the details to arrange a tour.

Sincerest Thanks!

Submitted by Melissa (not verified) on

It's so sad, because as someone who has lived their whole life in Norwalk CT, in the middle class part of that town, the big joke about Bridgeport is that it's the worst place in all of CT. I still remember going to a field trip there a couple years ago, and almost all of us made jokes about being mugged while walking the short distance from the parking lot to a theater. We would always assume that Bridgeport is an ugly, gross, terrible place and I'm pretty sure it's because of people like us, that Bridgeport will never be restored. We all knew that it was once a prosperous place, and like some places in Norwalk it was forgotten about at the same time as whatever business that supported it. We might be living in a place just as dangerous as Bridgeport, but just because it doesn't have the horrid connotation that Bridgeport does, it's all right. And now, because all of us, Bridgeport is now thought of as a much much worse place, because every seemingly harmless comment we've ever made about Bridgeport has guaranteed that people won't give it a second glance.

We've made it so that even if people decide to invest their money in restoring beautiful theaters or hotels, no one will want to visit. We've ruined so much without thinking.

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