If somebody asked you what comes to mind when you think of the 700 block of W. Girard Ave., you'd probably have to mull over the question for a minute, then grab your phone for assistance, before realizing that the original Tiffin makes its home on that block. If you're into dancing, the former Samba Club (now simply called 714) might spring to mind instead. Even if you're not the dancing type, you've surely noticed this building, which was originally built as a bank.
We love Indian food and could take or leave the club scene, but we've always carried a torch for another building on this block, one that holds a bit of mystery. 718-28 W. Girard Ave. has been sitting empty for as long as we can remember. The space at the corner is entirely boarded up, and a sign further west on the building has been advertising an upcoming shopping center for lease for at least a decade. The property includes a one story section along Girard Avenue with trees seemingly growing out of it, then it gets taller as it moves down Franklin Street. What's up with this property? Why hasn't someone done something with it? What was it used for, once upon a time?
We believe that this building was originally the Astor Theater, built in 1940, even though Cinema Treasures indicates that the theater was razed in 1989. We think the theater entrance was at the corner, and the theater itself was the larger building, visible on Franklin Street. The fact that trees are growing out of the building would seem to indicate that it's now in terrible condition, but we still wonder whether any original details remain inside.
A construction fence appeared around the property recently, and we see that the City issued demolition permits back in June. We don't know what's coming here, but the upcoming demolition would at least indicate that better times are ahead for this long-vacant property. Perhaps when the demolition gets underway and we can see inside the building, we'll be able to confirm our suspicion that this is indeed the former Astor Theater. Until then, we'll just have to keep on wondering.