Then and Now: Hamilton's Tivoli Theatre


The building that became the iconic Tivoli Theatre on James Street North in downtown Hamilton, started out in the 1870s as a carriage factory.

The factory went out of business in 1908 and an extension to the building was added at the back towards Hughson Street.
It was originally to be called the Wonderland Theatre and was to present early movies to Hamiltonians. In 1909 it was renamed the Colonial.

In 1913 the theatre was renamed the Princess Theatre. It only had about 200 seats so when the Lyric, Pantages and Loewes Theatre opened with over 1,000 seats it was considered obsolete, according to the Hamilton Public Library's Local History & Archives.

In 1924, when it became known as The Tivoli, the theatre was substantially enlarged and increased seating for 1,800 to 2,000 patrons. It also became a venue for vaudeville shows and movie screenings.

The former site of the Tivoli Theatre as it stands today.

They showed their last movie, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, in September of 1989 (Side note: I actually have vivid memories of seeing this movie at this theatre with my mother and brother. I remember being enthralled by the grandness of the venue and all the rich colours everywhere).

The building was bought by Sam and Sid Sniderman (Sam the Record Man) of Toronto in 1989. During those years, the building fell into disrepair.

In the early 2000s, live theatre came back to the Tivoli but only for a short time because in July of 2004, part of the top floor caved in and the city deemed the building to be unsafe.

The entire building from James Street to the 1924 auditorium was demolished.

The property has since been purchased by a developer and is slated to become home to a new theatre that will incorporate the auditorium and towering condos.

Cover photo courtesy of Hamilton Public Library’s Local History & Archives collection

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