Tower Theatre

438 Wabasha Street North,
St. Paul, MN 55101

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The Tower Theatre was opened in 1921 for Joseph Friedman, a local entrepreneur who operated a handful of small Saint Paul theatres since 1911.

Designed with a Venetian Renaissance facade, in red and gold patterned brickwork with an arched window framed by pillars and intricate cream-colored terra-cotta, the Tower Theatre was unique among Saint Paul’s movie houses at the time. A small lobby had walls lined in marble, and its 1,100 seat auditorium contained a large balcony, orchestra pit, and Barton Pipe Organ.

In 1926, Friedman leased his theatre to the Finkelstein & Rubin chain, which in turn was taken over by the Publix empire in 1929. During the Depression, when Publix was near bankruptcy, Friedman took the Tower Theatre back due to non-payment.

Friedman remodeled and modernized the theatre’s interior in 1933, but soon after that, Publix took over the Tower Theatre once again.

Starting around 1938, the Tower Theatre began a double feature program, and by the 1950’s, was even showing triple bills, mainly of B-grade horror or science-fiction films.

Not long after the Tower Theatre closed its doors in 1959, it was torn down.

Contributed by Bryan Krefft

Recent comments (view all 3 comments)

kencmcintyre
kencmcintyre on August 16, 2006 at 3:07 pm

Here are photos from 1935 and 1955, respectively:
http://tinyurl.com/eh7gd
http://tinyurl.com/fnec3

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on November 14, 2010 at 3:38 am

The finding aid for the papers of the architectural firm of Toltz, King & Day (at the University of Minnesota Library) list the Tower Theatre among the firm’s works.

The finding aid lists eight projects by the firm that involved a theater. One of these was the Hamm Building and Capitol Theatre (see my comment earlier today on the Paramount Theatre page.)

The other projects listed are:

1) Como Theater, St. Paul; undated
2) Cherokee Theater, St. Paul; 1921
3) Friedman Theater, St. Paul; 1921
4) Hamm Building, St. Paul; 1919-1920
5) Ideal Theater, St. Paul; 1913
6) Unique Theater, Minneapolis; 1943 (apparently a remodeling job)
7) RKO Orpheum Theatre, St. Paul; 1939, 1947-1949, 1953-1955, 1958 (obviously various remodeling projects.)

There was also a listing for the Edyth Bush Little Theatre, 1939-1940, but that was a legitimate house not equipped for movies. It closed in 1975.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on January 15, 2015 at 8:19 pm

A drawing of Toltz, King & Day’s Tower Theatre can be seen on this page of a promotional booklet from the Federal Cement Tile Co. of Chicago.

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