Towne Theatre

210 North Sixth Street,
St. Louis, MO 63101

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Towne Theatre

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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.

Contributed by Chuck Van Bibber

Recent comments (view all 6 comments)

JAlex
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!

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