Federal Street Theatre

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Federal Street Theatre, Boston

The Federal Street Theatre (1793–1852), also known as the Boston Theatre,[1] was located at the corner of Federal and Franklin streets in Boston, Massachusetts. It was "the first building erected purposely for theatrical entertainments in the town of Boston."[2]


Opening performance, February 3, 1794

The original building[3] was designed by Charles Bulfinch. It was "the first professionally designed American theater by a native architect."[4] It occupied land formerly owned by Thomas Brattle, Edward H. Robbins and William Tudor.[4] In 1798 fire destroyed the theatre; it was rebuilt the same year. The second building existed through 1852.[4]

Management included Charles S. Powell (1794–1795); John Steel Tyler (1795–1796); John Hodgkinson (1795–1796); John Brown Williamson (1796–1797); John Sollee (1797); Giles Leonard Barrett (ca.1798); Joseph Harper (ca.1798).[4][5]

Musicians affiliated with the theatre included Trille La Barre; Peter Von Hagen Sr.; R. Leaumont; and Gottlieb Graupner.[6] Scene painters included Christian Gullager (1793–1797).[4]


Image gallery[edit]


  1. ^ Boston Directory. 1823.
  2. ^ Thomas Pemberton. "A Topographical and Historical Description of Boston, 1794." Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society, 1st ser., III (1794, reprinted 1810), 255-56. Quoted in Stoddard. 1970; p.191.
  3. ^ "Architectural Description of the Boston Theatre." Federal Orrery (Boston) 11-10-1794
  4. ^ a b c d e Stoddard. 1970
  5. ^ Elias Nason. A Memoir of Mrs. Susanna Rowson. NY: Munsell, 1870.
  6. ^ H. Earle Johnson. The Musical Von Hagens. New England Quarterly, Vol. 16, No. 1 (Mar., 1943); p.112.
  7. ^ Early American Imprints, Series 1
  8. ^ American Apollo, Feb. 27, 1794
  9. ^ American Apollo, 24 April 1794.
  10. ^ Skemp, Sheila (2009). First Lady of Letters. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. p. 254. ISBN 978-0-8122-4140-2. 
  11. ^ Skemp, Sheila (2009). First Lady of Letters. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. p. 258. ISBN 978-0-8122-4140-2. 
  12. ^ Nason. 1870.
  13. ^ a b c American Broadsides and Ephemera, Series 1
  14. ^ "Lucrezia Borgia". Gleason's Pictorial. Boston, Mass. 1. 1851. 

Further reading[edit]

  • John Alden. "A Season in Federal Street: J. B. Williamson and the Boston Theatre, 1796-1797." Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society 65 (1): 9-74. 1955.
  • Martin Banham (1998). The Cambridge Guide to Theatre. New York: Cambridge University Press. Cf. especially p. 361, article on the "Federal Street Theatre".
  • Frank Chouteau Brown. "The First Boston Theatre, on Federal Street: Built 1793, finally discontinued 1852. Charles Bulfinch, Architect," Old-Time New England, v.36 (1945), 1-7.
  • Brooks McNamara. The American Playhouse in the Eighteenth Century (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1969), pp. 121–27.
  • Douglass Shand-Tucci (1999). Built in Boston: City and Suburb, 1800-2000. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press. Cf. p. 209
  • Caleb Snow. History of Boston, 2nd ed. 1828.
  • Richard Stoddard. A Reconstruction of Charles Bulfinch's First Federal Street Theatre, Boston. Winterthur Portfolio, Vol. 6 (1970), pp. 185–208.
  • Richard Stoddard. "Aqueduct and Iron Curtain at the Federal Street Theatre, Boston," Theatre Survey, VIII (1967), 106-11.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 42°21′19.97″N 71°3′23.48″W / 42.3555472°N 71.0565222°W / 42.3555472; -71.0565222