Tower Theatre

438 Wabasha Street North,
St. Paul, MN 55101

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The Tower was opened in 1921 for Joseph Friedman, a local entrepreneur who operated a handful of small Saint Paul theaters 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 was unique among Saint Paul’s movie houses at the time. A small lobby had walls lined in marble, and its 1100 seat auditorium contained a large balcony, orchestra pit, and Barton Pipe Organ.

In 1926, Friedman leased his theater 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 back due to non-payment.

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

Starting around 1938, the Tower began a double feature program, and by the 50s, was even showing triple bills, mainly of B-grade horror or science-fiction films.

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

Contributed by Bryan Krefft

Recent comments (view all 2 comments)

kencmcintyre on August 16, 2006 at 3:07 pm

Here are photos from 1935 and 1955, respectively:

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.

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