Catherine A. Masek
21-25, S. Potomac Street (MD 65), Hagerstown, Washington County
The Maryland Theatre is located at 21-25 South Potomac Street, Hagerstown. This 1350-seat theatre was constructed in 1915, and was designed by Harry E. Yessler of Hagerstown, who also designed the Colonial Theatre across the street, and Thomas W. Lamb of New York. Always considered basically an interior space, the Maryland Theatre was constructed in the interior of the "20" block of Potomac Street. Its main lobby was entered through an apartment block. This five story structure was destroyed by fire in 1974. The interior of the theatre can be divided into three distinct design elements: the proscenium arch and the stage block house, the orchestra seating and the boxes, and the balcony section plus interior lobby. The overall design of the space exhibits a strong neoclassical flavor, although there are some later Art Deco additions. Each of these spaces are framed by an arch. Large, curved pendentive areas are created between them at their meeting points. The intrados portion of the proscenium arch bears a classical motif of roundel, anthemion, palmette, and arabesque forms. The extrados of the proscenium arch are beaded mouldings, twisted festoon mouldings, and flowered medallion roundel mouldings. The extrados of the other arches are a more simple running plant-form medallion moulding. The orchestra pit was covered when the theatre was converted for motion pictures. Six tiered, curved boxes grace the orchestra seating area; three on the orchestra seating level and three on the balcony level. These box seats are recessed in a large, arched niche. Elaborate grills crown the interior surface of the upper vault. Ovalettes held by putti face each box. The balcony section is basically oval in shape. The lower seating in the balcony exhibits strong Art Deco traits, while the upper seating is similar to the neoclassical style of the orchestra seating. The lobby area is small and quite severe, yet elegant. A grand stair leads from the lobby to the offices on the balcony level and the convenience facilities. A second, smaller stair leads from this level to the upper level of the balcony.
The Maryland Theatre's importance lies in the fact that it is one of the few remaining neoclassical, 20th century theatres in Maryland and also is associated with the prominent theatrical architect, Thomas W. Lamb. The theatre was built in 1914-1915 for a group of Hagerstown businessmen. It was designed by two architects, Thomas W. Lamb (1871-1942) of New York and Harry E. Yessler of Hagerstown. The interior decoration was designed by the New York decorator Arthur Brounet. The ornamental plasterwork was executed by the Architectural Plaster Company of New York. General construction of the building was handled by a Hagerstown contractor, George B. Wolf.