'A very special place': Shakespeare Theatre remembered for glitzy heyday

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STRATFORD -

From its first performance of 'Julius Caesar' in 1955 until its final curtain in 1982, the American Shakespeare Theatre is being remembered for helping to put Stratford on the map.

The theater's founders wanted to provide Americans who couldn't afford to travel to England with fine Shakespeare productions right at home. Over the years, it drew big names, including Katharine Hepburn and Christopher Walken.

The building had sat in disuse following its closure in the 80s. It burned to the ground over the weekend in a massive fire, and what remained of it was dismantled by a wrecking ball on Monday.

MORE: 'Devastating': Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford burns to ground 

The cause of the fire is under investigation but officials say it does not appear suspicious at this time.

Photos from the Stratford Historical Society show the glitz and glam of the theater's heyday. And over the years, it also served as the backdrop for many school trips.

"I remember very clearly, it was sixth grade and our teacher brought us to Shakespeare Theatre to see a play," recalls Sandra Rutkowski, of the Stratford Historical Society.

Rutkowski adds that the property itself is a part of Stratford's history. "It's sitting on land that was where our first settlers came, and it's a part of our history. And it's sad to see it go, it was a very special place."

MORE: Arson not suspected in Shakespeare Theatre fire 

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