Hippodrome Theatre

720 Euclid Avenue,
Cleveland, OH 44114

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The Hippodrome Building, including the huge Hippodrome Theatre opened on December 30, 1907. The building itself was a unique structure with an eleven-story section facing Euclid Avenue and a seven-story section facing Prospect Avenue. The Hippodrome Theatre stretched between the two avenues. The opening production in the Hippodrome Theatre was the musical “Coaching Days”, and the feature of the evening was the exciting spectacle of horses diving into a large water tank built into the front of the stage. Presentations at the Hippodrome Theatre included grand opera, popular musical shows, vaudeville and movies.

John Phillip Sousa and Marie Dressler are two of the many name performers who played at the Hippodrome Theatre.

[above text from the book “Playhouse Square Cleveland Ohio” written by Kathleen Kennedy, Playhouse Square Association]

This place was HUGE. The main entrance on Euclid Avenue had a marquee and box office and came into a lobby that went through the block to another entrance on Prospect Avenue where there was another marquee and box office. The auditorium was off the lobby to the left, perpendicular to the lobby. It was remodeled by architect Thomas Lamb in 1930.

The times I was there was as a kid in the late-1960s it was a grind house, film running continuously. I never saw the interior with the lights on, so I can’t really say what the archetectural style was. It was high and dark. I could barely make out that there were three balconies above the orchestra, but they were always closed in those last years.

The Hippodrome Theatre lasted until 1975 when it was demolished to make way for, what else, a parking garage.

Contributed by dave-bronx

Recent comments (view all 120 comments)

CSWalczak
CSWalczak on April 20, 2010 at 8:57 pm

From an architectural/acoustical point of view, the Hippodrome might well have made a great opera house, but Cleveland (though home to a renowned symphony orchestra) has never really had the same or even a similar opera history as other cities of its size and potential resources. Caruso did appear at the Hippodrome in 1911 during one of the NYC Metropolitan touring performances; the Met also played the Hippodrome the following year.

Historically, Cleveland opera lovers have more or less counted on touring opera companies over the decades, especially the Met, which had a regular run for many years at Public Hall. Since the rebirth of Playhouse Square, a local company has played at the State. But during the time when the Hipp might have been available or ripe for opera house conversion, there really was no local company that would have been able to really make use of it as gargantuan as it was or raise the funds necessary to make it a true opera house.

jtmcdaniel
jtmcdaniel on May 2, 2010 at 1:10 pm

I did wonder if at least part of the reason for shutting down the office buildings, and then the theater, was the need to install a heating plant after Muni Light stopped selling steam. For a time I lived in the little apartment building on Prospect behind the theater and I believe that came down at the same time as the theater. The last time I was there was a couple years ago and the place was still a parking lot. At the time I lived there (early ‘70s), it was one of only a couple places you could live downtown. Most of what are apartments now still had stores and offices in them back then.

Hibi
Hibi on August 5, 2010 at 11:27 am

So the Hipp was heated by steam and had no heating system of its own?

jtmcdaniel
jtmcdaniel on August 5, 2010 at 6:13 pm

I’m not sure, but it seems likely. Most of the downtown buildings used steam purchased from Muni Light for heat, and I remember a mad scramble to install boilers when the sales were cut off. Adding a steam plant to an old office building that was constructed without provision for a boiler room was obviously pretty expensive, presuming you could find a place to put it, and were willing to spend the money. Sometimes they just closed the building and sold the land.

The steam pipes ran in a vault just under the sidewalks, which had a side benefit of keeping the sidewalks warm enough in the winter that the snow tended to melt off them.

TLSLOEWS
TLSLOEWS on August 5, 2010 at 6:49 pm

Interesting reading.

wcjfrisk
wcjfrisk on April 12, 2011 at 3:23 pm

I visited it right before demolition and it was a huge and complex place. The upper balcony looked across to a flat wall way above the proscenium. There was a stairway for the top balcony balcony that had a railing down the middle for crowd safety and winded up many flights of steps with no other doors until you actually got to the balcony. The rehearsal hall had been used by a radio station and was huge as well with South facing windows, so there was natural light, the West wall of that room was the wall the upper balcony faced since it was over the auditorium. I need to look at my pictures again which shows it was similar gargantuan size like the Philadelphia Met and the Auditorium chicago.

chspringer
chspringer on April 12, 2011 at 7:53 pm

WF, can you post the pictures or e-mail scans?

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on July 20, 2011 at 5:56 pm

“I’d Rather Be Rich” 1964 Biggest Wednesday Opening in the History of the Theatre.BOXOFFICE Sept.7 1964.

BobStanley
BobStanley on September 7, 2012 at 7:04 pm

I grew up in Cleveland and was a regular at the Hippodrome. It was literally like a palace. Plush red carpet, a grand sprawling marble stairway and there were gargoyle heads that lined the walls. The screen was huge and framed by heavy, thick velvet drapes that parted at the beginning of every movie to entertain you with coming attractions and instead of commercials you had a The Three Stooges short or a classic cartoon like Road Runner or Wood Woodpecker. I saw Bruce Lee’s Enter the Dragon 16 times their. Cleveland has a great deal to hang their heads in shame for tearing down this grand city treasure. No effort was made to save the Hippodrome. No words can express the anger and sadness I felt when Cleveland allowed the destruction of this irreplaceable treasure.

Norm Lindway
Norm Lindway on January 25, 2013 at 8:09 am

There are two pictures of the inside of the Hipp(Inside lobby and auditorium) in the book “Euclid Avenue, Cleveland’s Sophisticated Lady, 1920-1970” by Karberg and Toman, published by Cleveland Landmarks Press. Pictures of other downtown theaters are also in the book. Maybe someone can get permission to have these pictures scanned for inclusion in Cinema Treasures.

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