Cultural Heritage Tours


Downtown Tour

Poli’s Palace Theater

23 Church Street


Military parade marching past Poli's Vaudeville Theater, 1908. Courtesy New Haven Museum.

Sylvester Poli, 1920. Courtesy Colin Caplan.

By 1905 Poli built the new Palace Theater across Church Street from the Wonderland. In order to stay competitive, the Poli Palace was gutted and re-opened in 1917 with seating for 3,005 and featured Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland live in August, 1939. It had a Moller organ and a marble staircase leading to business offices above the theater, including Poli's Theatrical Enterprises and other professional offices pertaining to arts and culture. One such office was occupied by piano teacher and voice coach, Marie Gagliardi Fiengo, who attended the Julliard School of Music and was well known in the New Haven area.

By 1916 S. Z. Poli was the world’s largest individual theater owner. Movie theaters flourished during Hollywood's golden age and the Poli Palace and Bijou were no exceptions. The Italian immigrant population of New Haven, along with residents throughout the area, frequented both movie theaters which offered them a respite from their long work hours, at a reasonable cost of approximately 25 cents per movie as late as the 1930s. In 1928, Poli sold his theaters to Fox New England Theatres, retaining 3/4 interest and creating Fox-Poli's. With the stock market crash of 1929, Fox lost the theaters which reverted back to Poli. Poli retired in 1934 and sold his theaters to the Loew’s Theatre chain (founded in 1904 by Marcus Loew). The theaters became known as the Loew's Poli Theater.

Sylvester and Rosa were popular community leaders who supported local and international charities, raising money for the war effort and the Red Cross. Sylvester Poli spent his final years at his summer home, the Villa Rosa (named after his wife) in Woodmont, Connecticut. The family's former home, a sumptuous mansion, still exists on the corner of Forest Road and upper Chapel.

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