Historic Uptown Theater celebrates 90th anniversary

The Philadelphia Uptown Theater on Broad Street near Dauphin celebrated its 90th anniversary by lighting its original marquee on Saturday. The outdoor event included a wine basket raffle and a ceremony at the Black United Fund Conference Center across the street.

State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta attended, along with several artists and employees who were involved with the theater during its heyday in the 1950s. 

“This is a great step toward what’s next,” said Yumy Odum, a 15-year board member of Uptown Entertainment and Development Corporation. “This one hopefully is the actual beginning of the completion of the Uptown. …This is Philadelphia’s Apollo.” 

Betty Leacraft, who lives on Broad Street near Cecil B. Moore Avenue, said she remembers hanging out at Uptown in the 1950s to watch famous artists like Smokey Robinson and James Brown. 

“It was a great time to be a kid and a great place to watch live music,” Leacraft added. 

Local songwriter and producer James Solomon came to pay respect to the theater’s history and expressed optimism for its future. 

“The Uptown highlighted a lot of R&B as well as economic development for the community,” Solomon said. “This organization has been around for a minute, and they’re going to keep on going until they get Uptown back up.”

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