Poli’s Palace, located on Southbridge Street, was originally built as the Franklin Square Theater in 1904. In the 1920s, the theater was obtained by Sylvester Z. Poli, an Italian immigrant who had already experienced great success operating a chain of theaters in New Haven. Poli hired Scottish architect Thomas W. Lamb to realize his vision for Poli’s Palace. Lamb expanded the theater from 1,800 to 3,000 seats and added ornate plasterwork, marbleized columns, mirrored walls, chandeliers, and a two-story lobby.
Poli’s Palace was an immediate hit, drawing crowds of thousands on its opening night in 1926. In addition to traveling acts, the theater featured its own stock company known as the Poli Players. Poli operated two other theaters in Worcester — the Plaza and the Elm Street Theater — and continued to open new theaters along the eastern seaboard throughout the 1920s.
Poli sold the theater to the Fox Theater Corporation for $30 million in 1928, only to purchase it back in 1934 through federal court sale after the corporation filed for bankruptcy. He then sold the theater to Loew’s Theaters. In the 1940s and 1950s, the Loew’s Poli was the largest theater in Worcester. In 1967, the theater was transformed into a Showcase Cinema and divided into four smaller theaters.
After the Showcase Cinema closed in 1998, the building lay vacant for several years before it was acquired by the Worcester Center for the Performing Arts. Through a $31 million renovation project, many of the theater’s historical features were restored, and it reopened as the Hanover Theater in 2008.