The Vassar Theatre is a venue that my uncle's research didn't uncover as a Johnson Construction Company project, and for which my grandfather Al Johnson didn't leave behind any Kodachrome slides. Two clues are the basis for including it in our family theater history.
The first is its similarity in art moderne/deco style with other Johnson-built theaters. This includes the trademark red and cream exterior color scheme and the quintessential "Johnson doors" with paired half-moon shaped glass, which are said to have been patented by my grandfather.
The second clue is in a September 1949 newspaper article (see below) which lists the locations of theaters owned by the Schuckert & Stafford theater chain. The Vassar is among the six other theaters that Johnson built for that company.
The theater, located at 140 E Huron Avenue in Vassar, opened in 1937. If the Vassar was one of my grandfather's projects, it's one of eleven Johnson-built theaters that is still open in 2021 (Covid-19 closures notwithstanding).
The WaterWinterWonderland.com site provides this history: "The Vassar Theater is an Art Deco style, utility building, sheathed in contrasting metalon tiles, with a baked enamel finish. The streamlined projecting marquee is trimmed in colors designed to blend with the tiled upper façade. The squared, bay window ticket office and the oval-shaped entrance doors are trimmed in chrome. The theater seats 512. The Vassar Theater is significant as a fine example of the Art Deco theater and as Vassar's oldest still operating movie theater."
"In 1937 Howard and his wife Grace Smith started a partnership with Howards brother, Stanley. They hired Bennett and Straight, of Dearborn to design the theater and The Long Sign Company of Detroit to design their marquee. The Vassar Theater stayed open until 1979. In 1987 a new owner reopened the theater."
The Cinema Treasures website says that the Vassar Theatre "...opened on December 26, 1937 with 'Stella Dallas' starring Barbara Stanwyck. It underwent extensive renovation and restoration by its owner, Tim O'Brien. Reopened in November 2005 and is used primarily for movies. The seating capacity was originally for 512 and is now 371. It was closed in March 2014 upon the death of the owner. It was purchased in late-2014 by Andreas Fuchs who is an Advisor and part of the Team of Cinema Treasures. The Vassar Theatre reopened January 30, 2015."