Rivoli Theatre

430 N. St. Clair Street,
Toledo, OH 43604

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AlanCo4 on July 31, 2016 at 2:53 am

Was there a bar beneath The Rivoli during the 60’s called the “Underground”?

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on June 30, 2011 at 3:11 am

wcjfrisk’s comment reminded me of something I’d seen, so I hunted down the following piece from the July 14, 1919, issue of The Toledo Blade, as quoted in a 1919 book called “Motion Pictures as a Phase of Commercial Amusement in Toledo, Ohio,” by John Joseph Phelan:


“New York Interests Take Arcade Property for Motion Picture and Vaudeville Bills.

“The Sun & James Amusement Co., New York, has leased the property now occupied by the Arcade theatre, St. Clair and Jackson streets, and will construct a $300,000 theatre building.

“The deal was closed Monday, through Thomas Davies, of the Thomas Davies Realty Co. The building, it is expected, will seat 3,000. It probably will be used for both vaudeville and moving pictures.

“Ready January 1.

“The building will be 90 by 170 feet, brick and concrete.

“Work in tearing down the old Arcade theatre building already has been commenced and it is planned to have the new theatre ready for opening January 1.

“Mrs. Nettie Poe Ketcham, New York, owns the Arcade theatre building and property. The Sun & James Co. lease is for 99 years.

“Office Space Later.

“Gus Sun operates a theatre in Springfield, O., and W. M. James, a former Toledo man, owns the Broadway theatre in Columbus. Other theatrical men are said to be interested also.

“The new theatre auditorium will be built back from the street and it is planned later to build a large office building surrounding it and facing on St. Clair and Jackson streets.”

The same book includes the Arcade Theatre (listed as the Strand Arcade) at 438-40 St. Clair, and gives its seating capacity as 1,224. As the Rivoli has nearly twice the seating capacity, this had to have been a virtually new theater, even if part of the old Arcade was incorporated into the new construction.

The 1903 edition of the State of Ohio’s “Annual report of the Department of Inspection of Workshops, Factories and Public Buildings” has an entry for the Arcade Theatre. It a statement of changes the Department had ordered to be made to the building:

“No. 20—Empire Arcade—Mrs. Nettie Poe Ketcham (Toledo), November 19, 1902—Change exit doors on Jackson street so as to open outward; cut down third and seventh windows from stage on east side of auditorium and convert them into doorways, doors to be hung so as to open outward; provide six chemical fire extinguishers of four-gallon capacity each, two to be placed on stage, two in rear end of auditorium and two In gallery, of such style as approved by the National Board of Underwriters; repair fastening to gate in alleyway, between the Arcade and Empire Theaters, so that same can be opened easily. Complied; certificate Issued.”

An item about the Valentine Theatre in the July 25, 1908, issue of The Moving Picture World also mentions both the Arcade Theatre and the Empire Theatre, saying that the Empire was across the street from the Valentine, and the Arcade was in the same block of St. Clair Street. It appears that the Arcade’s doors on Jackson Street were probably always exits, not an entrance, at least from 1902 on.

I was unable to find either the Rivoli or Palace mentioned by name in the list of C.Howard Crane’s theaters in “The Theater Designs of C. Howard Crane,” a thesis by Lisa Maria DiChiera, but the list includes the Empire Theatre in Toledo as project #345. The date is not given, but the Allen Theatre (later the Capitol) in London, Ontario, which opened in February, 1920, was listed as Project #343, so it fits the time frame of the Rivoli’s construction.

As both the Empire and the Arcade were owned by Nettie Poe Ketcham, it seems possible that the project of rebuilding the Arcade might be listed under the name of the same owner’s adjacent theater that was still in operation. The finely detailed Beaux Arts facade of the Rivoli is certainly characteristic of Crane’s work of the period. In fact, many of the details of the Rivoli’s facade are almost identical to details on the facade of Detroit’s Orchestra Hall, built about the same time. I’d say it’s very safe to assume that the Rivoli was indeed the work of C. Howard Crane.

W Frisk
W Frisk on April 15, 2011 at 7:34 pm

The Rivoli was a very extensive reconfiguring of the much older Arcade theater, which had its entrance on Jackson Street around the corner from St Clair entrance of the Rivoli. The C. Howard Crane firm also has a notation in their commissions list for work on both the Rivoli and Palace but the extent of the work is not noted and no drawings survive. During the demolition a very large part of the roof structure fell all at once as a result of not being constructed the way the workers expected, a sign of it being a major structural remodeling. The interior was more accurately described as Italian Renaissance, which was in keeping with the exterior main facade design. A surviving settee from the balcony level of the lobby is in that style and venetian green painted carvings.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on December 2, 2010 at 3:32 am

William Speck’s book Toledo: A History in Architecture says that the Rivoli was built in 1920. I have found references to the theater being in operation during the 1920s. The Wolfsonion collection’s index of John Eberson’s work lists the Rivioli only as a 1930 remodeling project, so he must not have been the original architect. So far, I’ve been unable to discover who did design this theater.

In the absence of interior photos, I don’t know how extensive the 1930 remodeling was, but the only exterior feature of the theater that was ever changed appears to have been the marquee. As the house was only ten years old in 1930, I doubt there was much alteration of the interior either. The ground floor front eventually got a streamlined update, with vitrolite panels and new metal door hardware, but this is not seen in photos from the mid-1930s, and so must have been done quite some time after Eberson worked on the house.

The facade at least was never Art Deco, except for that marvelous zig-zag marquee, as numerous photos such as this one show the building’s classical details such as fluted pilasters with ornate, composite capitals, swagged garlands with festoons, a denticulated cornice, and balusters along the parapet, which is surmounted by four pairs of urns. This decor was all intact until the theater was demolished. Whoever the original architect was, he had probably attended the Ecole de Beaux-Arts, or had studied with someone who had.

theleatherman on September 18, 2010 at 1:52 pm

Hello, I was born in Toledo, Ohio in 1942. I grew up going to the theaters in downtown Toledo from 7 years old till I was 12 I would like to see pictures of all of the downtown Toledo theaters. The Rivoli, Pantages, Paramount, and the Gayaety, which was a Burlesque theater. (I sneaked in there when I was 10 and no one said a word to me or bothered me. I did find pictures of the following theaters at (http://americanclassicimages.com) Palace, Esquire, Valentine, Pantheon, Royal, Loop. Any help would be appreciated. I was 10 and attended the Premier of Johnny Dark at the Rivoli (1953) the story of the Kaiser Daren staring Tony Curtis

LTHAYES01 on June 2, 2010 at 6:17 pm




Panzer65 on August 6, 2008 at 3:25 pm

Hello friends,
Being from New York City, I have spent much time on Cinema Treasures
researching the rich theater history we have here.You may find it unusual that this post pertains to a television episode from the series MAS*H.Many of you perhaps know the fictional character from the series Maxwell Q. Klinger, a Toledo resident who is trying to get out of the army by dressing in women’s clothes. Well in last night’s episode ,Max is acting like he’s back home in Toledo, although he’s still in war time Korea. At the breakfast table, he’s talking to the guys and mentions “Hey did you see them demolish the Rivoli Theater yesterday”. Right away I decided I would check, and lo and behold, there is a Rivoli in Toledo! Being it was the Korean War (1950-1953) the time line was out of place, demolition date of 1969. Since you had the time to read my story,as a fellow member, I invite all the good folks of Toledo to visit the New York City CT pages, especially the RKO Madison and Ridgewood, which are located in my hometown. The Ridgewood has just been closed after 91 years of consecutive operation. We have an online petition currently in operation to save this beloved 1916 beauty, would you please take a few minutes of your time to review and possibly sign? Thank you and best wishes.
View link

Patsy on June 27, 2008 at 6:06 pm

I’ve probably already posted this observation, but this demolished theatre was an EBERSON! The theatre was demolished in 1968 as a victim of “urban renewal”!

cbrennan on September 23, 2007 at 7:23 am

Any information or pictures of the Pantheon would be appreciated.

Patsy on July 20, 2007 at 7:40 am

Would like to see some interior photos of this theatre.

Patsy on July 20, 2007 at 7:36 am

ken mc: The color photo is great. So the style was art dco and the architect was Eberson? And then the words Closed/Demolished at the top of this link! Does the City of Toledo have any historical theatres still standing? I would like to visit Toledo this summer and tour an historical theatre rather than just reading about them.

kencmcintyre on July 19, 2007 at 9:18 pm

The CT guys get a lot of posts to wade through every day. Sometimes it takes a while but everything gets updated eventually. Cf: Mesa Theater Los Angeles. Patience is a virtue, as they say.

atmos on July 19, 2007 at 8:46 pm

Repeating an earlier post about this theatre.The style was art deco and the architect was John Eberson.

kencmcintyre on March 31, 2007 at 8:49 am

Here is a color photo from the same source:

kencmcintyre on March 31, 2007 at 8:14 am

Here is a photo circa 1940s from the Toledo Public Library

dave-bronx™ on January 21, 2007 at 6:45 am

The marquee here looks like a B.F.Keith circuit type of marquee.

atmos on January 21, 2007 at 3:23 am

This theatre is listed on page 25 of THSA annual,Glitz,Glamour and Sparkle as a John Eberson Art Deco creation of 1930.

MikeyFortune on July 28, 2006 at 8:15 pm

I moved to Toledo in 1962 from Charleston, West Virginia and remember clearly the interiors and exteriors of the Rivoli and the Palace. I attended numerous films there as well as the Paramount, Pantheon, Princess, Esquire, and Valentine theatres. I did get to see the Loop and the Royal as well so I was stunned to see color photos of them on this site. I have been in both the Westwood (when it was a “true” art theatre) and the Eastwood for which I have many photos hidden away somewhere. Not far from the Eastwood is the building that once was the Tivoli theatre, at last look was a Knights Of Columbus Hall. I was too young to gain entry to the Town Hall Theatre (I do have a photo of the exterior) or the Gayety however I did get to see them up close from the outside in. The Palace was always my favorite, a rouged old showgirl that stood long before many of the others. The day the Palace and Rivoli closed signaled the death knell for downtown Toledo. It was never the same dispite the suburban sprawl. I later owned and operated a twin screen in South Toledo in an attempt to re-store a sense of showmanship to the city I once lived in. All of the above mentioned theatres were managed or operated by true showmen and show women, alas, a vanishing breed.

jukingeo on May 5, 2006 at 3:30 am


PATSY—Thank you. I just had some ideas that he might be interested in since we both share the same dream.


Patsy on May 5, 2006 at 2:34 am

But the worse disappointment was the Paramount in that Ohio city on the shores of Lake Erie!

Patsy on May 5, 2006 at 2:34 am

I see that the Rivoli had a very unique architectural balcony area so am very disappointed to read about its demise! Shame shame!

Patsy on May 5, 2006 at 2:33 am

JG: I haven’t spoken via the internet sith STEVEPATRICK for quite some time. As I recall he was in Maine and looking to buy an Ohio theatre, but don’t know the latest. If you do, let me know. I do recall that he also went to Illinois to look at a theatre in that State.

jukingeo on May 4, 2006 at 5:41 pm


PATSY—Ohio still has some nice theatres kicking around. I am looking to buy a theatre and I was interested in the State Theatre in Sandusky when I heard it closed, but apparently it is not for sale and scheduled to reopen. So that is a good thing.

Offtopic: I been following your conversations with STEVEPATRICK. Have you two kept in touch? His dreams and goals are very similar to mine.


Patsy on May 4, 2006 at 5:25 pm

Very unique photo of the Rivoli and the Palace side by side! It doesn’t seem to me that there are many, if any, historical theatres on a grand scale left in Toledo to see in 2006!

pjacyk on January 22, 2006 at 9:34 pm

Rivoli Marr & Colton – Toledo Area Theatre Organ Society