Waco Hippodrome Theater

724 Austin Avenue,
Waco, TX 76701

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Waco Hippodrome Theater

Viewing: Photo | Street View

The Hippodrome was built in 1913 as a vaudeville theater by a group of Waco businessmen organized by Thomas P. Finnegan.

Opening night, February 7, 1914, featured a live seal act, a five piece orchestra and a magic act. Tickets were ten cents for adults, five cents for children, and box seats were a quarter. The theater was operated by Mr. H.P. Hulsey & known affectionately known by Wacoans as “Hulsey’s Hipp”.

As the era of vaudeville came to an end, the Hippodrome became a Paramount-Publix silent movie theater. As an affiliate of Paramount, the theater operated as the Hippodrome until a fire occurred in 1928 in the projection booth, which destroyed much of the front of the building.

The consequent renovation resulted in the Spanish Colonial Revival style that visitors now see. The popular theater reopened in 1929 under new management with a new name, the Waco Theater.

The facility remained in use, undergoing three additional renovations in 1936, 1961, and 1971. In the late ‘70’s, as an increasing number of customers turned to newer movie theaters in suburban areas, the theater closed. The Hippodrome remained unused until 1980, when the Junior League of Waco took on the project of restoring the Waco Theater in response to the need for a performing arts center.

Between 1981 and 1986, community volunteers, the Junior League of Waco, and the Cooper Foundation contributed $2.4 million dollars and countless hours of dedication to undertake the restoration.

On Feb. 28, 1987, the Waco Hippodrome Theater reopened and is now listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. The facility is operated by the Waco Performing Arts Alliance, a community-based non-profit organization which manages the facility for the benefit of the people of Waco and Central Texas. The Hippodrome is a Broadway touring presenter and also showcases nationally known children’s shows through its New Horizons Family Series. The theater is also available for use by the community for various rental venues as well.

Contributed by Jennifer Warren

Recent comments (view all 20 comments)

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on September 1, 2007 at 12:14 pm

A Pilcher theater organ opus 810 size 2/12 was installed in the Hippodrome (Waco Hippodrome) Theater in 1914 at a cost of $4,000.

texas25th
texas25th on October 31, 2007 at 11:19 pm

The following statement is from a dear friend and very knowlegable Theatre organist and longtime Waco resident, Mr Jim Pitts.

Pilsher built the organ but it was NOT a theatre organ in the strict sense. The organ was not installed in chambers but sat divided on both sides of the proscenium, perched atop access foyers to the stage and dressing room area. It was later sold to First Methodist Church of Waco and was removed before a fire in the theatre destroyed much of the stage and screen. The organ survived the 1953 tornado which unroofed the church and sent the steeple crashing down on the console. Actually, poor installation saved the organ from water and storm damage as the shutters were installed horizontally and fell closed when the wind supply ceased. This fault sealed the organ from outside influence during the massive storm. It was resurrected in the new First Methodist Church and two additional ranks and a new console were added by Robert Markham. With the building of a much larger sanctuary later, the organ fell into disrepair and was replaced with a 33-rank Shantz ~ but it still lives and plays today. A small protestant church in south Texas bought it about three years ago and it has been rebuilt and enlarged. The old gal is still going, and on its original blower, too. Efforts to reclaim the organ for the Hippodrome were not successful as there was no possible means to install it in the theatre’s current configuration.

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on February 14, 2008 at 5:03 pm

This is a larger version of the postcard at the top of this page.

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on July 8, 2009 at 9:09 pm

Here is a nice 2009 photo.

CSWalczak
CSWalczak on February 26, 2010 at 3:07 am

This theater has, at least for now, suspended operations due to financial problems: http://www.kxxv.com/Global/story.asp?S=12044261

TLSLOEWS
TLSLOEWS on February 26, 2010 at 12:10 pm

Nice looking theatre.

hopewell
hopewell on March 6, 2010 at 1:02 pm

According to the local news, the Waco Hippodrome WILL remain open for the moment.

CSWalczak
CSWalczak on April 3, 2010 at 6:12 pm

The theater’s official website is now: http://www.wacoperformingarts.org/index.php
The site confirms that the theater will be able to finish out its current season of live performances.

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