The second Alice Jones mystery is out in two more weeks! I can hardly believe it. In anticipation, here is another look behind the scenes…
Alice Jones: The Ghost Light is set in an old, run down theater called the Beryl. The Beryl was once the finest theater in Philadelphia, but after a fire in 1927, it fell into ruin, got a reputation for being cursed and sat derelict for almost a century. It’s an amazingly grand building beneath the years of soot and decay, full of drama and majesty. It’s also completely fake.
There are a lot of reasons I chose to create my own theater instead of using a real one, but the biggest was so that I could have total control of all the exits and entrances and any secret spaces that *might* exist.
But, the (fake) Beryl Theater was inspired by a very real one in the heart of Center City: The Boyd.
My inspiration was twofold. First, The Boyd inspired the look of the Beryl. I love its art deco styling and the immense amount of detail everywhere in the building. I mean, it was a room for watching movies in the dark, but they still intricately carved and painted the ceiling, and custom designed the carpets. Of course, the paint is peeling and there are chips in the moldings-but you can still see how amazing it was once upon a time.
Stairs to the balcony, a sign for the lounge and detail etched into the lobby door. Photos courtesy of Friends of the Boyd, Inc.
Colored glass detail, fountain-themed plaster molding and the lobby stairway niche. Photos courtesy of Friends of the Boyd, Inc.
But beyond just looks, I was inspired by the story of The Boyd and the people struggling to save it from demolition.
Starting in 2002, The Friends of the Boyd worked tirelessly to keep the theater going and restore the building to its former glory. I can remember seeing one Friends of the Boyd newsletter at my parents house and being mesmerized by the photos of the theater.
The exterior of the Boyd today.
The graffiti inspired a brand new character!
Sadly, the auditorium wing of the Boyd was demolished in 2015. The facade and Grand Lobby, however, are still standing and The Friends of the Boyd are working to rehome many of the period features saved from inside the building.
The Beryl, I’m pleased to say, gets a happier ending.