St. Charles Theatre

426 St. Charles Avenue,
New Orleans, LA 70130

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Invitation - Centennial Celebration of the Inauguration of - Geo Washington

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The St. Charles Theatre was one of New Orleans' oldest and most storied theaters, first opened on November 30, 1835 (designed by architect A. Mondelli) it was opereated by James Caldwell as a legitimate playhouse. It was said to seat upwards of 4,000 in Neo-Renaissance splendor. It was at the time one of the most extravagant theaters of the South, costing over $300,000 to construct. However, it burned to the ground in 1842.

It was rebuilt just a year later, though smaller and with a simpler facade, it was no less ornate inside, if not more, than its predecessor. It was designed by architect Dr. George King Pratt. The second St. Charles Theatre hosted some of the biggest stage names of the 19th century, including Jenny Lind and Edwin Booth. Ironically, it was also burned to the ground in 1899.

In 1902, architectural firm Favrot & Livaudais designed a third theatre on the site, for the Keith-Orpheum vaudeville circuit, this time called the Orpheum Theatre. When a new Orpheum Theatre was opened in 1924, not far from the old one, the theatre was sold to the Saenger circuit and its old name revived, the St. Charles Theatre, as a movie house with live stage shows.

In 1932, the St. Charles Theatre was remodeled under its new management, and switched over to movies-only. It remained a popular first-and-second run movie house until it was closed in 1965 and razed to make way for a parking lot, ending over a century of theater history on the site.

Contributed by Bryan Krefft

Recent comments (view all 5 comments)

JackCoursey
JackCoursey on November 8, 2002 at 4:50 pm

Although I haven’t visited New Orleans in over 5 years, the St Charles or the Orpheum as it was known as in 1996 was still standing and served as the home of the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra.

frank gagliano
frank gagliano on November 28, 2006 at 9:33 pm

The Philharmonic also used the St. Charles Theater as its rehearsal hall up until the time of its razing. As a boy of 11 in 1964, I sang with the philharmonic and remember rehearsing in the run- down musty theater.

vernhettes
vernhettes on August 28, 2010 at 4:43 am

Hello Friends, I would like to understand about the St. Charles/Orpheum/Saenger. I live in Paris. I took a photo a few years ago of the actual Orpheum, which stands in a street near Canal St. on the left looking towards the Lake, near Rampart. I also took photos of the Saenger big theater at Canal and Rampart (last April they were renovating it). I also have a 1915 postcard with the sign Orpheum on Canal St. I can send this postcard.
Where was the original situation of the theater? Which one was razed?
And is the one still standing (in full activity) the one where the Pilharmonic rehearsed?
I thank you for your reply. Cordially, Dan Vernhettes, Paris, France.
Please write directly to

CSWalczak
CSWalczak on October 9, 2012 at 11:05 am

Here is a picture of the St. Charles Theater.

That photo of a ticket, shown above, picturing President Washington, is not a ticket to this theater. That 1889 event was at the second St. Charles Theater which was located on this theater’s site but which burned down in 1899.

This St. Charles Theatre was erected in 1902, was almost immediately renamed the Orpheum and then became the St. Charles again when Saenger chain took it over and the existing Orpheum on University Place opened. As noted above, this theater was demolished in 1965. It was located next door to the Liberty Theater, and a small portion the left edge of the St. Charles can be seen at the extreme right edge of this photo of the Liberty.

DavidZornig
DavidZornig on June 18, 2014 at 10:43 am

Just added a 1864 photo.

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