210 North Sixth Street,
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Many St. Louisans remember the Towne Theatre (Rivoli). This small, ornate building at 210 North Sixth street opened as a downtown cafe. Designed by Charles K. Ramsey, the structure provided lunch for St. Louisans for two decades before becoming the Rivoli Theatre in 1915.
At the time the cafe became the Rivoli, a few changes were made to the building’s facade. These changes would make the Twone a landmark in St. Louis and famous in the Midwest for its architecture.
Designed by architect 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 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.
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