State Theatre

316 Eau Claire Street,
Eau Claire, WI 54701

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LouRugani on January 31, 2018 at 6:09 pm

The STATE Theatre in downtown Eau Claire is just off Farwell Street — one of the busiest thoroughfares in the city — and Barstow Street, which is considered the main road of Eau Claire’s downtown. Built for $315,000 by Finkelstein and Ruben, The STATE Theatre opened in January, 1926 with a vaudeville show and multiple musical acts. Several years afterward, the STATE started hosting movies and kept doing so until 1982. The STATE Theatre building was donated in 1984 to the Eau Claire Regional Arts Council so it could be restored and resume its original purpose of hosting performances.

It went on the real estate market a little more than a month ago, and a for-sale sign recently appeared on the theatre’s exterior, pasted between posters for acts coming to the theater for its final season. Dean Larsen of Acquisition Realty & Development says that he’s had three showings since he became agent for the property but has received no written offer yet. Larsen said one was thinking demolition and the other two were contemplating “remodeling” the STATE Theatre but didn’t specify for what use. He expects the building likely will attract local investors, who have familiarity with the downtown area and possibilities for the property. The State has offices on its second floor, Larsen said, and the feasibility of turning those into apartments or other uses hasn’t yet been explored.

The 1926 50,000-square-foot STATE Theatre building with its 1,098-seat theater, second-floor offices, a dance studio and art gallery, is listed for $450,000 and is being marketed as commercial property.

There doesn’t seem to be much local interest in preserving the historic theatre.

Ben Richgruber, executive director of the Eau Claire Regional Arts Council which currently owns the STATE Theatre building, says the building is in good shape but the group has had issues through the years with the roof and heating system. When the Confluence Arts Center (under construction on Graham Avenue about a block from the STATE Theatre and scheduled to open this fall) was announced in May 2012, it was clear that the STATE Theatre would close because ECRAC wanted to be part of the new facility and abandon the STATE Theatre with its limitations for hosting large performances. The Confluence will include offices for local arts groups that currently are based out of the STATE Theatre.

Eau Claire’s economic development administrator Mike Schatz said the city briefly considered buying the STATE Theatre but opted against it because the private sector was showing interest in it. “From a location standpoint, it’s right in the middle of a lot of activity,” Schatz added, saying that downtown buildings with apartments on upper floors often sell fast because buyers see rental income in addition to what could be made through street-level business tenants. The State has offices on its second floor, Larsen said, and the feasibility of turning those into apartments or other uses hasn’t yet been explored.

Still, the STATE Theatre continues to host and book performances. Local productions of “Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat” and “State Fair” are booked for this summer at the STATE Theatre. Richgruber said “We’ve still been going gangbusters over here. We’re going to use it until it’s done.”

rivest266 on January 28, 2018 at 7:48 am

This opened on January 19th, 1926 (not the 14th). Grand opening ad in the photo section and below

Found on

DavidDynamic on February 18, 2012 at 1:23 am

Oops, I meant to mention those cool lions holding the marquee brace chains

DavidDynamic on February 18, 2012 at 1:20 am

The brickwork is amazing! Contrast to the pseudo stucco. Too bad the marquee is too plastic. An old style more simple marquee would be more fitting for the vintage of the building.