Raging fire destroys famed Casino Theatre

NOTE: This story has been typed in from a clipping saved from the Pocono Record, as it is not available online.

By RUTH VINCE and STEVE BLAKELY | Pocono Record Reporters

Fire completely destroyed Mount Pocono’s last remaining landmark of the 1920s Wednesday night when flames, shooting 50 feet into the night, engulfed the Casino Theatre and related businesses on Main Street.

Thirty-five Pocono Mountain volunteer firemen with four trucks responded to an alarm at about 10 p.m. and remained on the scene for over two hours trying to contain the wind-whipped blaze.

Fire Chief David Carey said the building was completely engulfed when his men arrived and that the fire probably started in the rear of the building.

What started the fire is unknown, but Carey said an investigation will be conducted. Residents at the scene said the theater had been broken into several times during the winter by juvenile vandals and that at one time projection equipment had been burglarized. It was not possible to confirm these reports.

Firemen used water from a hydrant across the street and from tanker trucks to contain the flames, which spread to nearby trees.

At one point authorities feared a high tension wire 25 feet from the building might topple, but a crew from Pennsylvania Power and Light Company arrived and cut power to the line.

“It was a Godsend that the wind was blowing away from the line and toward the building; otherwise we would have had real trouble,” Carey said.

Although heavy snow was falling in Mount Pocono in a light wind, the heat of the fire could be felt across the street and the glow filled the skies for miles around.

Traffic was re-routed from Rte. 611 down Rte. 940 to Know Street to Knob Road and back onto Rte. 611.

Two hours after the alarm there was only the brick facing remaining. The building was primarily of wood construction with a tar paper roof.

Located between the Pocohasset Apartment building and the recently constructed Citizens Saving and Loan building, the theater structure housed a malt shop, a gift shop and a yarn and needle shop, all owned by the same company.

Owners Victor Genco and John Hildebrand of Pocono Farms and George Litz of Cresco could not be reached for comment. Built in 1922, the one-story building originally housed the Casino Night Club but was converted to a movie theater after being purchased by Mrs. H.C. Smith of Stroudsburg.

The current owners acquired the theater in 1974.

The movie house, which could accommodate more than 200, was scheduled to re-open for the season April 26 with the movie “1776,” which was to run through April 29.

Ironically, the local bicentennial committee had decided just this week to sell tickets for the April 29 show in order to raise funds for a Fourth of July parade.

Wednesday night, from across the street and up the block, some 200 curious spectators watched as the old Casino Theatre gave its final performance.