Smith, James Wilson (1847-1933)
Statement of Significance:
1."New Theatre," Rochester Era, October 3, 1913.
2."Work has been commenced on the new Idle Hour theater, adjoining the St. James Hotel," Rochester Era, November 14, 1913.
3. "The New Idle Hour Theatre," Rochester Era, February 3, 1914.
4. "Avon Theatre Plans Grand Opening: Patrons Will be Amazed At Thrilling Beauty; New Avon Theatre, Rochester, Formerly Idle Hour, Opens Thanksgiving," Rochester Clarion, November 20, 1936, p.1.
5."Front of Avon Theatre Collapses, No One Hurt," Rochester Clarion, May 19, 1955.
6."Obergs Vacating Store for Bank," Rochester Clarion, January 17, 1964, p.1.
James W. Smith, proprietor of the St. James Hotel on the southwest corner of Main and University Drive (formerly Fifth St.), built this building to house his Idle Hour Theater in 1913. Smith opened the New Idle Hour Theatre under the management of Oscar Price in February, 1914. The Era told its readers that the new moving picture house was "of white brick with steel ceiling and sidewalls, concrete floors, asbestos operating booth, perfect ventilation, steam heat, and ... absolutely fireproof." It was described as seating 400 patrons, and boasting an 18-foot stage with a depth of 16 feet, suitable for live performances as well as film screenings. The premiere of the new house offered a live performance by the Rochester Comedy Company, entitled True Irish Hearts.
The following year, Edward J. Cole took over the Idle Hour, and eventually the operation of the theater passed to Charles L. Sterns, who remodeled it with an Art Deco face and renamed it the Avon Theatre in 1936. The Avon was Rochester's only movie theater until 1942, when Sterns opened the Hills Theatre across the street. The larger Hills became the town's first-run house, and the Avon presented second-run titles and serials. After the Avon Theater closed in the early 1950s, the building house a series of businesses, including Oberg Electric, the National Bank of Rochester, Michigan Chandelier and the Varsity Shoppe, among others. While the building was being remodeled in 1955 to accommodate the Oberg Electric shop, a steel beam across the front collapsed and the Art Deco front collapsed onto the sidewalk.