210 N. 6th Street,
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This small, ornate building at 210 N. 6th Street was built in 1896 as Caesar’s Café. Designed by Charles K. Ramsey, the structure provided lunch for St. Louisans for two decades before becoming the Ritz Theatre for a few years. It became the Royal Theatre in 1915 when a beautiful new façade was added and other improvements were made. 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 theatre’s owners to save this historic building which had been granted Landmark status, the theatre was razed in 1983 to make way for the Metropolitan Square building.
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