Located in the Tioga neighborhood in North Philly, the 1400-seat Tioga Theater opened in 1915 and operated as a movie theater until circa 1950.
In the late 1950s and ‘60s, top jazz artists performed here including John Coltrane, James Moody, Zoot Simms, Donald Byrd, Sarah Vaughan, Kenny Rodgers and Cannonball Adderley. On January 12, 1958, Dizzy Gillespie and Lee Morgan headlined a concert. The Philadelphia Tribune reported:
What began as a sizable crowd for Sunday’s jazz matinee concert at the Tioga Theater, became what is known in the newspaper business as a SRO (standing room only) gathering by nightfall. It all goes to prove that Rock-N-Roll hasn’t as yet completely captivated the musical world–and modern jazz is nowhere near dead.
The Tioga was repurposed and later abandoned by Deliverance Evangelical Church in 1973. It has been vacant ever since.
West Fairmount Park’s “Playhouse in the Park” opened on July 30, 1952. It was the brainchild of John B. Kelly Sr., commissioner and later president of the Fairmount Park Commission (renamed Fairmount Park Conservancy in 2001).
In 1956, the tent was replaced with a permanent 1500-seat wooden structure, the country’s first “theater in the round” owned and managed by a municipality.
The Playhouse summer stock theater included “Fiddler on the Roof,” “Zorba,” “A Little Night Music” and “Kiss Me, Kate,” “The Sty of the Blind Pig,” and “The Poison Tree.”
There were programs for children, as well as jazz and blues concerts. Cannonball Adderley recorded a live album here.
A bootleg audio of the concert is available on YouTube.
The last full season was in 1979. The building was demolished in 1997. The site is now a picnic grove.
On September 30, 1967, the 2nd Quaker City Jazz Festival became the first event hosted by the Spectrum.
The two-day festival was produced by Herb Spivak, co-owner of the legendary Showboat. According to Joe McAllister:
Spivak went to Ed Snider and company (the Flyers were still in their infancy and the Sixers played at the Convention Center) and said he’d like to book a two-day jazz concert. Initially rebuffed because the Snider group didn’t believe a jazz bill would sell. Spivak replied, “That’s my problem.”
Spivak booked 10 groups a day and once again sold out the concert in two days. Dizzy Gillespie opened up the Spectrum with “God Bless America” followed by performances by Stan Getz, Dave Brubeck, Sarah Vaughan and Flip Wilson among others.
The lineup also included Cannonball Adderley, Astrud Gilberto, Groove Holmes and Arthur Prysock.
The Spectrum formally closed on October 31, 2009. Demolition was completed in May 2011.