New theatre and music hall embracing history of Broadway

Cory
Cory Hurley
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Jim Parsons stands outside the new theatre and music hall on Broadway.

CORNER BROOK  The name Swirsky is synonymous with business in old-town Corner Brook.

A pair of local artists and businessmen are now hoping it becomes widely recognizable with theatre and music well into the future.

"Swirsky’s" on Broadway is the new site of a theatre and musical hall — providing a space to the performance art community, and the speculative audience, for regular entertainment.

Jim Parsons and David Maggs will be building upon the heritage of the newly renovated Broadway business created by Ernest Swirsky.

While many people in Corner Brook may not be familiar with the name Swirsky these days, it was once a staple of the Broadway business community. Once the Broadway Leader — a general type store — it later became the Julius Swirsky Clothing Store.

Swirsky, a Jewish immigrant from Poland, was the first of his extended family to move to Newfoundland, and start up businesses in the city.

Parsons himself spent many of his youthful days and evenings hanging out in the Broadway area, and says it is easy to forget the history of the street.

“We don’t think of ourselves as rich from an immigrant perspective here in Corner Brook sometimes, but that’s how the town was built,” he said. “I think that is key to the Broadway renewal — remembering this and finding a way to celebrate that history.”

The building at 7 Broadway dates back to the mid 1920s. It is a registered heritage structure based on its aesthetic and historic values. While maintaining its boomtown architecture — with its flat roof and front facade — Parsons and Maggs decided to bring back the Swirsky name.

“There’s something special about not just going into a building, but knowing about the history of it and the people who lived there,” he said.

While digging through some old archives and doing a little bit of research uncovered some of that history, Parsons also reached out to Ron Swirsky — the son of Ernest — to fill in some of the gaps. He now lives in Ontario and is 78 years old.

The Swirskys were community-minded people, according to what Parsons has learned — probably not into theatre — but he still felt the tribute would be a valued one.

From a business perspective, he also hopes it will generate some interest among local people.

“There is a bit of curiosity in it,” he said. “It sort of brings a smile to people’s faces, and we want to capitalize on that. Keep it alive.

“There are a few developments that are happening that will hopefully make that a lively commercial district — where people will actually stroll the streets, do some shopping, and find some entertainment for people of all ages.”

The vision is a theatre or music hall for small performances — fulfilling a void for such a facility that currently exists, says Parsons.

Some theatre productions or musical performance are not suitable for larger venues as the Arts and Culture Centre and not all musicians want to play at a bar. Swirsky’s will provide such a venue. It is also an opportunity for shows and performances at an earlier hour than the typical nightlife provides.

The stage is about 18 by 10 feet with theatre-style lighting and sound. There is both theatre and table and chairs seating for between 80 and 100 people.

It won’t be open publicly nightly, but just for special events, and will also be suitable for things like rehearsals, said Parsons.

The new business is expected to start hosting events in partnership with Gros Morne Summer Music July 22.

Organizations: Parsons.Some theatre

Geographic location: Broadway, CORNER BROOK, Poland Newfoundland Ontario

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Recent comments

  • A.
    August 07, 2013 - 19:54

    Wonderful. Restoring the area....good for you! When I was young it was a trip to Corner Brook one a month. Shopping for clothing, taking in a movie and seeing the dentist.

  • Down Memory Lane
    July 24, 2013 - 07:33

    Well! You certainly brought a smile to my face, for sure! Grew up in Corner Brook when Swirsky's was a clothing store. Have many wonderful memories of walking along the boardwalk as children looking for new outfits, especially for Easter. How charming that you reached back into the history of Corner Brook & chose a name of one of our pioneer citizens. I do wish you much success for such a positive contribution to the community. Break a leg!

  • Hazel Chaulk
    July 13, 2013 - 09:56

    Very interesting! I remember the days when Broadway was the place to shop. It's nice to see it being revived, even for other reasons. Hope it takes off and is a plus for the community.