Glove has had 100 years of ups and downs

GLOVERSVILLE – Richard Samrov, the volunteer executive director of the Glove Performing Arts Center, has seen the Glove Theatre undergo many changes over the years, including its near-demise in 1995, when it almost was demolished to make room for a parking lot.

Thanks to concerned local citizens, however, the theater survived. And now, the theater has reached a milestone – its 100th year.

Since its construction in 1914, the Glove Theatre has had its share of ups and downs. In recent years, it underwent renovations. Presently, it operates with minimal finances, said Samrov.

Samrov, 75, and his family have a long and dedicated history with the theater on North Main Street.

He started his theatrical experience when he became an usher at the theater during the 1950s, when he was in high school. Before that, he would watch his grandfather operate the projector.

“I really grew up in this place,” Samrov said. “I would walk here from school to meet my grandfather so we could go home together, but when I got older, he told me, ‘I think it’s about time you had a job,’ and from that point, I eventually became the head usher until I left for college.”

Dr. Henry Cady began building the theater in 1913. In October 1914, he and a business partner George Dartch opened it to the public.

The building was designed to accommodate a variety of live performances such as opera, vaudeville shows and orchestral concerts.

In 1920, the Schine Brothers, J. Myer and Louis, purchased the building, converting it into a movie house, and brought in vaudeville acts from around the country.

The Glove would host two shows daily with one in the afternoon and one in the evening.

Samrov’s grandfather, Harry King, worked for the Schines for years. King, who also worked as a vaudeville performer, was showing silent films at his Hippodrome theater on Fulton Street in Gloversville in 1918 when the Schines approached him and asked to lease it, Samrov said.

King agreed to lease the Hippodrome to Schine with the understanding King would have a job in whatever venture Schine undertook.

Sales at the Hippodrome took off, allowing Schine to purchase several more theaters.

The Schines eventually purchased other theaters in Gloversville, leaving only the Darling Theater out of their control.

By 1938, the pair had more than 100 theaters along the East Coast and other parts of the country.

In 1938, a glittering marquee was placed on the front of the Glove building and the interior was renovated and improved, Samrov said. It was a golden time for the Glove and the city, he said.

The theater has hosted some famous faces in Hollywood, from Anne Rutherford of “Gone with the Wind” to the world’s most famous collie, Lassie.

Samrov said Jack Benny and Buddy Ebsen performed at the Glove, and the theater held a premiere for “Drums Along the Mohawk” in 1938.

The Schines never forgot their first business partner, Samrov’s grandfather, who held various jobs throughout the years at Schine businesses before his death in 1965.

As fate would have it, 1965 happened to be the same year the Schine family got out of the theater business and the descendent of J. Myer and Louis sold the family holdings for $150 million.

Preserving history

By the 1950s and ’60s, television started to invade the American household, and the movies no longer claimed the excitement they once had.

The theater was shuttered in the 1970s when movie ticket sales declined, and it was nearly demolished to make room for a parking lot in 1995 before a group of concerned citizens stepped in to save the historic structure.

“It was just terrible,” Samrov recalled the condition of the theater. “The water went all the way up to the stage and there were all sorts of things growing on the seats. The piano was actually floating with all kinds of animals living in it.”

The Glove Theatre Restoration Project and the Gloversville Theatre Corp. incorporated as a community-based, not-for-profit corporation. It has been bringing the historic building back to life ever since.

As with any restoration, it continues to be a long work in progress, but that isn’t deterring the volunteers at the Glove from steadily bringing the place back to life.

In 2012, the Glove Performing Arts Center board reached out to Renee Crown, the daughter of the late J. Meyer Schine. She and her husband, Lester Crown, who live in Chicago, agreed to provide a 2-1 challenge grant, effectively tripling the money from other donors, up to $100,000.

Samrov said the theater’s heating system was recently converted from oil to gas as a cost-saving measure.

This change alone is saving the theater a lot of money, Samrov said, considering the previous oil system was costing $100 a day to keep the place warm.

Among the projects still in the beginning phase is replacing the permanent seats that were taken out of the theater in 1996 and making repairs to the interior walls and the marquee.

The Carriage House behind the theater was saved from demolition, and following repairs, will be used to house a woodshop, set storage, costume department and dressing rooms. The bathrooms and concession stand will be repaired in the future as well, Samrov said.

The Glove Theatre Museum, established in February 2003 with a grant from the Holcomb Family Foundation, was created by a group of volunteers. It houses numerous clippings, photos and memorabilia from years gone by. It also has a Simplex Carbon-Arc motion picture projector from the silent-film era.

The museum includes a candy machine from the 1950s that served theater patrons and a uniform worn in the ’40s and ’50s by the head ushers, with the Schine insignia on the left shoulder.

Samrov said an interesting thing tends to happen once people come inside the theater. They realize what a terrific place it is and its capability to be a gem downtown, he said.

Samrov said attendance at events fluctuates based on the event. While some events will draw about 20 people, others attract 100 or more.

Evamarie Mraz, vice president of the Glove’s Board of Directors, said the Glove means a lot to the volunteers.

“We are coming around,” she said. “We saved the theater from being demolished, and for it to celebrate 100 years this year, to us as board members and the volunteers, it means a lot. Just to be a part of this history it means so much to me, it’s near and dear to my heart.”

Mayor Dayton King said the Glove is important to the city.

“The Glove is fantastic for bringing people downtown for a show or event, and over the last 100 years, there have been some very large events,” he said. “The Board of Directors are working very hard to return the Glove to that hub, and I’m hoping that they will be successful because it would be successful for the entire community.”

The theater has a variety of events coming up, including “The Musical Comedy Murders of the 1940s” in March, “Avenue Q” in June, “Gypsy A Musical Fable” in July, “Honk! Jr.” in August and “The Adam’s Family” in September.

Samrov said other events will be held once the weather improves to celebrate the Glove’s 100th season but those plans haven’t been decided yet.

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