Cleveland June 21, 2021
5 Historic Theaters That Brought Glitz And Glamour To Cleveland
There is something incredible about historic theaters in Cleveland. At these unique locations, the glamorous architecture of yesteryear combines with the modern theatrics to create performances that are out of this world. However, that old school architecture also hides in its memories of countless past performances… and some happened ages before you might have guessed. When it comes to history, these local venues are some of the most interesting in Cleveland:
1. The Agora
The Agora has been a pit stop for countless big names over the years... but many locals cherish it as a venue that supports the Cleveland music scene and up-and-coming acts. It got its start in the 1960s as an exclusive dance club, but it moved a few times over the years, according to the
Encyclopedia of Cleveland History
. In the later half of the 1980s, it moved into its current location... and it's this one that we're going to take a moment to examine the history of.
The building in which the Agora now operates was once the Metropolitan, a chic performance center that opened its doors in 1913. The Metropolitan was described as "modest yet elegant" upon its opening, a fact that visitors today can still appreciate. It hosted operas, orchestras, plays, and films over the years. Eventually, it became a studio for a local radio station and hosted only sporadic performances until the site was acquired by the Agora.
2. Connor Palace
Also known as the Palace Theater, the Connor Palace has a rich and far-reaching history. It got its start as Keith's Palace Theatre in 1922, and its grand interior cost a fortune at the time to build. Rich marble elements, crystal chandeliers, and seating for over 3,000 people didn't come cheap. Of course, the changing times weren't cheap, either. Not too long after opening, movies began to capture the interest of locals... so the theater switched its sights to a healthy mix of live entertainment and motion pictures by 1932. Sadly, the next few decades brought decline to the neighborhood, and it finally closed its doors by 1969. When there was initial interest in saving the quickly declining performing arts district, the Palace Theater once again opened its doors for performances in 1973. Fortunately, this beautiful and elegant venue was fully restored within the next decade, and it continues to wow visitors to this very day.
3. Ohio Theatre
The old Mimi Ohio Theatre has lived a thousand lives in a short time, it seems. This grand structure opened its doors in 1921, featuring a chic Renaissance-inspired interior. Of course, all things Art Deco were popular in the 1920s and 1930s, so it underwent renovation in 1935... then reopened as the Mayfair Casino, which was actually a supper club. At the time, casino gambling was illegal in Ohio; a fact that perhaps caused the location to close its doors within a year of opening.
By 1943, the old theater had finally reopened as a movie house. This should have been the end of the story but, alas, fate had more in store for the old venue. In 1964, a fire tore through the lobby of the old building... which, of course, necessitated another redecoration. The owners decided to paint the interior red to hide smoke damage, but locals weren't exactly in the mood to paint the town red... not downtown, at least. The neighborhood was in decline, and the Ohio Theatre closed in 1969. Fortunately, the reinvigoration of the performing arts district led to it being reopened in 1982.
4. State Theatre
The big sister to the Ohio, the State Theatre shared a lot in common with its smaller neighbor. It was decorated in Renaissance-inspired architectural elements, and its massive lobby set records at the time of its opening. Unlike the Ohio, the State Theatre enjoyed a fairly worry-free existence... until it, too, closed its doors in 1969 due to poor attendance. Following its closure, it was threatened with demolition a few times... but, of course, public outcry protected the historic theater district. Eventually, the old performance venue reopened in 1984.
5. Allen Theatre
The Allen Theatre opened in 1921, and it was immediately recognized for its extravagance. Able to seat some 3,000 attendants, this pretty theater had much to offer... but, unfortunately, its management was struggling a bit with booking acts. Ownership shifted a few times over the years, and the old Allen Theatre quietly continued operations. However, maintaining it was growing costly, and Clevelanders started losing interest in the arts. In 1968, nearly a year before the neighboring theaters gave up, the Allen closed its doors.
Interestingly, this theater was nearly forgotten when the others in Playhouse Square reopened. It wasn't renovated until 1994, and at that time it cost nearly $15 million to fix it up. Soon, it opened to the public again, having resisted threats of demolition. Today, it has since undergone additional restoration, this time making the space more intimate and geared toward smaller performances.
There is so much to love about these historic theaters in Cleveland. Each has its own charms, and each has decades of performance history to boast of. Which of these local theaters is your favorite? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!
Love Playhouse Square? Explore the history of its
initial birth and rebirth for more information on this fascinating Cleveland neighborhood. Address: Agora Theater & Ballroom, 5000 Euclid Ave #101, Cleveland, OH 44103, USA Address: KeyBank State Theatre, 1519 Euclid Ave, Cleveland, OH 44115, USA Address: Allen Theatre, 1407 Euclid Ave, Cleveland, OH 44115, USA