Gayety Theatre

246-54 S. High Street,
Columbus, OH 43215

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Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on July 16, 2014 at 6:46 pm

This house was built in 1914 and opened as the Empress Theatre. This PDF with data from the Library of Congress Historic American Buildings survey was prepared shortly before the front of the building was demolished in 1980. The document notes Horace L. Chapman as the owner of the building prior to 1919, but says that it was built in 1915-1916.

It also says that the architect is unknown, but the Internet provides evidence that the theater was designed by the firm of Dawson & Holbrook. Here is an item from the April 11, 1914, issue of The American Contractor:

Columbus, O.—Theater. Store & Flat Bldg. (seating 1,300): 3 sty. & bas., providing for 8 sty. later. 80x187. $80,000. High & Cherry Sts. Archts. Dawson & Holbrook, Outlook bldg. Owner Horace L. Chapman, Wyandotte bldg. General contract to J. W. Heckert, Ruggery bldg. Excavating. Architect desires bids at once on plastering.“
Currently, Amazon has on sale a 1915 print ad from the O. W. Ketcham Terra Cotta Works, and the ad features a photo of this house, captioned "Empress Theatre Building, Columbus, O. Dawson & Holbrook, Architects.” Here is a link (though it is probably temporary.) Amazon doesn’t say what magazine the ad was published in, but it might turn up at the Internet Archive or Google Books eventually.

Architects Dawson & Holbrook designed at least one other built theater in Columbus, the Vernon, and in 1914 they were selected to design a new theater to be built on the site of the Grand Opera House on State Street, though it appears that he opera house was merely renovated around that time, and I haven’t been able to discover if the plans for that project were done by Dawson & Holbrook.

Mark_L on April 22, 2010 at 7:47 pm

Closed as the Knickerbocker, a second run downtown theatre, on 9/15/1946. Reopened as Gayety Burlesk on Friday, November 22, 1946, featuring Mitzie…“Pretty as a Picture and a Frame to Match” in Hello Columbus, also featureing Nadine, Paul West, Bartel & Scott, Zeb and Mandy and the California Sunkist Chorus.

Featured “Painless Prices~~Bring the Ladies, They’ll Scream!”

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on November 6, 2009 at 2:18 am

Looks like this site is now occupied by the City Center parking garage — the only successful part of the massive City Center shopping mall development, soon to be demolished.

Broan on June 24, 2005 at 8:16 pm

Further photos and information are available through a search at