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This Day in Boston History
June 20th, 1961
Howard Theater Burns
day, a three alarm fire gutted Scollay Square's Old Howard Theater.
Though never proven, the fire was widely suspected to be arson, sponsored
by interests who wanted the Old Howard cleared for the creation of government
Ironically the heart of Boston's burlesque scene began its life as a
church for the apocalyptic Millerites. When the world didn't end as
predicted, some of the parishioners rented the building as a theater.
It became a private athenaeum for performing arts, then a public vaudeville
venue, hosting the like of W.C. Fields, Abbott and Costello, Fannie
Brice and Phil Silvers.
Legions of college students and service men filled the Howard as it
began to feature exotic dancing. Even theater scholar Francis W. Hatch
Howard's passing, as Scollay Square gave way to Government Center.