Towne Theatre

210 North 6th Street,
St. Louis, MO 63101

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This small, ornate building at 210 North 6th Street opened as a downtown cafe. Designed by Charles K. Ramsey, the structure provided lunch for St. Louisans for two decades before becoming the Royal Theatre in 1915.

At the time the cafe became the Royal Theatre, a few changes were made to the building’s facade. These changes would make the theatre a landmark in St. Louis and famous in the Midwest for its architecture. In August 1922 the Royal Theatre’s lease was purchased by the Universal Pictures chain, and they closed the theatre to carry out a $25,000 upgrade. It reopened as the Rivoli Theatre on November 19, 1922 and was operated by Universal Pictures until September 1926.

Designed by architect Charles K. Ramsey in the Louis Sullivan tradition, five panels with sgraffito on them were placed vertically along the upper front above the marquee, and a panel bearing the name ‘Rivoli’ stood horizontally above the marquee. These panels made the theatre a distinctive building.

Sgraffito is a process unique to twentieth-crentury St. Louis. ‘Sgrafitto’ means scratched, but that’s not actually how the process works. Two forms of colored plaster are placed over each other; the colors usually contrast. The upper layer is cut into a pattern so that the bottom layer shows through.

The Rivoli’s sgrafitto had intricate patterns cut by skilled craftsmen. When the building was torn down, salvagers saved the sgrafitto panels first.

The Rivoli’s name changed to the Towne Theatre around 1970. As the Towne Theatre it started showing first run movies and then X-rated films in its later years.

Despite pleas from the theater’s owners to save this historic building, the theater was razed in 1983 to make way for the Broadway Tower after being declared a landmark.

Contributed by Chuck Van Bibber

Recent comments (view all 7 comments)

JAlex on June 8, 2007 at 4:01 pm

Condensing the name changes over the years:

December 1915 – Opens as a theatre, known as RITZ.

May 1916 – Renamed ROYAL.

November 1922 – Renamed RIVOLI.

March 1968 – Renamed TOWNE.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on January 18, 2012 at 2:46 am

An article in The Moving Picture World of January 1, 1916, said that the St. Louis Amusement Company had opened the Ritz theater at 208-210 N. 6th Street as an all-picture house on December 11, 1915. The Ritz operated from eleven o'clock each morning until eleven o'clock at night, with the admission price being ten cents at all times.

Matthew Prigge
Matthew Prigge on November 12, 2012 at 11:26 am

If anyone has any stories about going to/ working at this threatre in its adult days, I would love to hear them. I am chronicling the histories of adult theatres in the US. Please contact me at Thanks!

rivest266 on February 20, 2016 at 3:28 pm

November 19th, 1922 grand opening ad as Rivoli in photo section.

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