standard theater

Few would guess by looking that the lot now occupied by Caribbean Delight and a wide brick-faced walkway on the 1100 block of South Street was once the site of performances by the early 20th century’s most celebrated African American performers.  In the century prior to that, the site was host to Sunday services as the South Street Presbyterian Church. The image here below, taken from Samuel L. Smedley’s 1862 Philadelphia Atlas, shows the church on the south side of the street.

South Street Presbyterian Church, 1862

According to Explore PA History, the church was converted into the Standard Theatre in 1888.  Little information is available to describe the daily fare at the theatre prior to 1914, when Baltimore native and African American booking agent John Gibson purchased the lot.  Gibson’s theatre quickly rose to prominence as one of the premiere ‘black and tan’ clubs in Philadelphia, so named for their multi-racial audiences and black vaudeville performances.  Below, 1919 photos taken from Explore PA History show the theatre's exterior and interior.