Garrick Theatre

515 Chestnut Street,
St. Louis, MO 63101

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Garrick Theatre

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The 1904 World’s Fair brought thriving commerce and tourism to St. Louis. It was also the reason many famous building’s such as the lavish Jefferson Hotel, were built. And in the year of the World’s Fair, the Garrick Theatre was erected at a cost of $350,000.

By no means a major movie palace, this theater, built before the silent films became popular, was a legitimate playhouse. Named after famed actor David Garrick, this theater at 515 Chestnut served as a playhouse until World War I. What puts the Garrick Theatre on the “map” among other theaters is the Shubert Brothers' involvement. The brothers also managed the Sam S. Shubert Memorial Theatre at the corner of Twelfth and Locust and the Shubert Theatre on Grand which later became the American Theatre and then the Loew’s Mid City Theatre.

Located between Broadway and Sixth Streets in the heart of downtown, the Garrick Theatre sported a distinctive turn-of-the-century facade. Its heavy stone front featured arch doorways. Although the facade wasn’t extremely ornate, it was attractive. The modest marquee read merely “Garrick Theatre” on each side. The theater was small: it had a 65 foot front and extended only 125 feet back.

Notables such as Al Jolson and Fanny Brice headlined the theater. After World War I, the Garrick Theatre didn’t compete with the vaudeville and movie houses but changed its format to burlesque. As a burlesque house, the Garrick Theatre proved successful. At least it was successful until the 1940’s. After World War II, the Garrick Theatre again changed its format.

This time, the Garrick Theatre showed “Adults Only” movies. The half-century-old theater was steadily on a downhill track. On October 19, 1954, the Garrick Theatre was razed — a sad demise for such a historic building. But by this time, the Garrick Theatre was in poor shape. Much of the interior was in disrepair, the plaster was cracking, the seats needed reupholstering and the floor badly needed repairs. Although not built during the golden age of theater architecture, the Garrick Theatre served St. Louis for over a half century as a major theater before becoming an adult movie house.

Contributed by Charles Van Bibber

Recent comments (view all 12 comments)

JamesGrebe
JamesGrebe on February 21, 2005 at 5:50 pm

Where is the photo?
JamesGrebe

Broan
Broan on February 21, 2005 at 8:05 pm

Click the word ‘Here’. It is a link.

JamesGrebe
JamesGrebe on February 22, 2005 at 5:18 am

Thanks Brian, now I know how
JamesGrebe

JAlex
JAlex on November 20, 2009 at 10:56 am

Theatre opened December 26, 1904. (The World’s Fair, incidentally, had closed December 1.)

TLSLOEWS
TLSLOEWS on July 17, 2010 at 1:52 pm

Loews ran it for just over two years strange.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on November 23, 2010 at 2:56 am

In 1899 the Garrick’s architect, William Albert Swasey, designed a building for the Masons at 1042 N. Grand Avenue, which included a theater that operated as the Odeon for over thirty years. I’ve been unable to discover if the Odeon ever operated as a movie house, though. Does anybody know? It would have to have been before 1936, the year the building was condemned and demolished following a major fire.

Here is a biographical sketch of W.A. Swasey from the Landmarks Association of St. Louis. It mentions the Garrick as well as the Odeon, but only briefly.

JAlex
JAlex on August 14, 2011 at 11:03 am

The Odeon on Grand was primarily a concert/recital hall which occasionally presented a film. When the Municipal Auditorium (the future Kiel) opened in 1934 and the Symphony moved its concerts there, a policy of movies and stage shows for Black audiences was attempted, but was unsuccessful. A fire in late 1935 led to the building’s condemnation and demolishment.

JAlex
JAlex on August 19, 2012 at 9:20 am

The 1908/1909 Cahn Directory gives a seating capacity totaling 1301. Specifically: 60 Box seats; 488 Orchestra seats; 382 Balcony seats; and 371 Gallery seats.

kschneiderstl
kschneiderstl on November 4, 2012 at 8:04 pm

Re: Tinseltoes link. There is a theatre called Fox’s Liberty Theatre in that ad. There does not seem to be a listing on Cinema Treasures for Fox’s Liberty or Liberty theatre in St. Louis. Did it go by any other names? Cinematour lists a Liberty Theatre in St. Louis, but there is no photo, address or other info.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on November 4, 2012 at 8:20 pm

kschneiderstl: Liberty was an early aka for the house listed at Cinema Treasures as the Sun Theatre.

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