E. M. Loew’s Theater at 174 Asylum Street in Hartford was one of the city’s landmark movie theaters. Formerly the Majestic, it was the first theater in Hartford to show “talkies,” motion pictures accompanied by a sound track. This radical innovation took place in 1929. But by the 1960s, the inner city had fallen on hard times. The venerable old playhouse was slated for demolition in order to make way for the new Civic Center, which, it was hoped, would help revitalize downtown. This drawing of the theater was made by the Hartford artist Richard Welling in 1970, just before it was torn down. Welling presented the drawing to Bill Savitt, proprietor of Savitt’s Jewelers, whose billboard appears on the side of the doomed building. Savitt’s, another Hartford institution, located at 35 Asylum Street, barely escaped demolition, and endured until Savitt’s retirement in 1986. Less than a month later, 35 Asylum Street was replaced by a driveway.
The Savitt Collection, documenting Bill Savitt’s colorful 67-year career, is now at the Connecticut Historical Society. The Richard Welling Collection, consisting of over 4000 prints, drawings, and photographs, was recently given to the Connecticut Historical Society by the artist’s family. A major exhibition of Richard Welling’s work will take place at the Connecticut Historical Society in the fall of 2014.