Manayunk: Main Street’s Hidden History

The Loring building is an unsuspecting gem on Main Street.

Just over the Green Lane Bridge at 4441 Main St. in Manayunk resides Loring Aluminum Building Products, which has been serving the tri-state area’s construction needs since 1969.

But the story doesn’t end there.

The old building that houses Loring was once a hub of Philadelphia vaudeville and cinema in the 1930s and 40s.

Main Street pedestrians might simply pass by Loring without noticing the faded “ESS” lettering above a garage that once boasted The Empress Theater’s name. But step inside, and there’s no doubt that The Empress was a gem in its heyday – with crown molding along the ceiling, an intricately carved balcony and cupids adorning a wide stage with an antique projection screen hanging from the rafters.

Terri Loring stands below the original balcony of The Empress Theater.

Owner Terri Loring took over the business from her father, who purchased the vacant building in 1969.

The Empress’s seats were sold to a church and the orchestra pit was filled in with concrete to accommodate the company’s construction inventory, but all of the building’s original architecture is still intact.

Loring said she is proud that her business has withstood the test of time, despite the rest of Main Street being redeveloped to serve the changing needs of new residents.

“The street is always changing, always reinventing itself,” Loring said.

The same can even be said for The Empress, which was converted into a discotheque for some time before being shut down by the city for drug charges.

Loring stores its inventory on the stage of the old Empress Theater.

Today, many consider the problem to be alcohol. Manayunk’s Main Street has received criticism from some residents who think there is an excess of raucous pubs and bars.

But Loring stands by her company and the grand building that continues to house a strong family business.

“I miss old Manayunk, but I understand that times change. Businesses are slowly coming back,” she said. “Whether it’s Palm Springs or Manayunk – it’s all been affected in some way.”

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