The original structure, known as the Franklin Square Theatre, was built in 1904. Later it became known as the Grand Theatre and was owned by Pauline L. Taylor. At that time, the theatre extended to the line of the former Norwich & Worcester rail line, which is approximately the front edge of the present balcony.
In 1925, Sylvester Poli of New Haven, Connecticut hired Thomas W. Lamb, one of the world's leading theatre architects to make major additions and alterations to the building. Lamb designed a 3,000-seat theatre, decorated with ornately painted plasterwork, marbleized columns and many elaborate furnishings. It offered its early patrons mirrored walls, a grand staircase, a large chandelier and a two-story lobby.
In 1967, National Amusements, Inc. purchased the building, closed the theatre and renovated the space into the Showcase Cinema. This renovation required major interior alterations including the removal of the stage, proscenium wall, upper seating boxes, balcony seating, and theatre seats and then dividing the space into four smaller cinemas. Showcase Cinema IV was closed in the late 1990's and the building was only minimally maintained for the next decade.
Edward Madaus and Paul Demoga, founders of the Worcester Center for Performing Arts, started the nonprofit in 2002 with the intention of purchasing the former grandiose theatre and turning it into a performing arts center. National Amusements transferred ownership to the Worcester Center for Performing Arts, Inc. for a nominal fee and the Light the Lights! Capital Campaign to restore the theatre began!
Prior to the grand opening in 2008, two local businessmen noticed the large, vacant Poli Palace Theater in Federal Square and starting thinking. Seeing great potential in what others may have deemed a useless building, Ed Madaus and Paul Demoga founded the Worcester Center for the Performing Arts, a nonprofit organization dedicated to restoring the old building and bringing culture to the city. "Worcester is the largest city in the country where there is no theater where you could put on a Broadway show," says Troy Siebels, president and CEO of the WCPA. "When the building is complete, it will be one of the grandest buildings in New England."
The project which came to fruition which cost almost $32 million, has been supported by several private and government contributions. The inside of the theater features several historical attributes, including a proscenium, grand chandeliers, a terra cotta faade and a second floor mezzanine. Builders also installed new elevators, a glass pavilion and state-of-the-art lighting and sound systems. Complete with a balcony, detailed plasterwork and boxed seating, the theater represents the perfect union between historical beauty and modern amenity. "The venue is incredibly ornate," says Siebels. "I think people are going to be surprised by what they see."