515 Chestnut Street,
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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.
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