Palace Theatre

1102 Tower Avenue,
Superior, WI 54880

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The Palace was a historic vaudeville and movie house that has six months to find a developer or it will be demolished. It has been sitting vacant since April 22, 1982. It was opened on March 26, 1917.

The historic theater has stood vacant for most of the 23 years since it closed as a movie theater on April 22, 1982. Bricks have fallen off the building.

In 2002, the city took possession of the building after it was seized by Douglas County for back taxes.

Estimates to renovate the theater to its former grandeur are between $7 million and $10 million.

The city council said someone needs experience in theater restoration, getting tax credits and a plan to operate it for them to keep it open.

There used to be a nursery downstairs complete with a merry-go-round and sand piles.

The structure was built with ornamental brick with inlaid panels and the front featured an elaborate design of white terra cotta, pillars and an ornate canopy. Mosaic tiles inlaid with the theater’s name in scrawling script were at the entrance.

Inside, elaborate renaissance relief throughout, marble stairs and floors in the massive two-story balcony were designed by C.W. and George Rapp.

Broken plaster lies on the floor beneath a private balcony, leaving only rusted exposed mesh in front of the once-ornate box. Seats are all the stage and bird droppings are all over the stairways.

In November 2006, the Palace was demolished.

Contributed by Dave Bonan, Bryan

Recent comments (view all 19 comments)

VincentPrice on November 5, 2006 at 11:10 am

Sadly, the Palace Theater was demolished on Wednesday, November 1, 2006

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on March 3, 2007 at 4:41 pm

This is a 10/18/2006 article about the former Palace Theater.

“Councilors adamant about razing Palace Theater.

Source: Daily Telegram (Superior, WI)
Byline: Shelley Nelson

Oct. 18—The next time city councilors meet, the historic Palace Theater could be little more than memory, its footprint fading from Superior’s landscape. That didn’t stop preservationists from reminding city councilors Tuesday that they failed to save the past as far as the former downtown vaudeville and movie house is concerned. “Friends of Superior” members presented a petition urging city officials to follow all federal, state and local regulations before proceeding with demolition. The petition was signed by about 296 people, more than 200 residing in Superior. As City Clerk Margaret Ciccone cited the number of signatures, a Friends representative said there were more than noted in her remarks. Friends' members reminded councilors of their obligation to preserve the city’s past, which is cited in the city’s own ordinances and the mission of one of its committees. The group noted the city’s recent decisions were a departure from the attitude just a few years ago, when city officials lobbied Douglas County to take ownership of the building with the goal of finding a theater developer. “Like many others in this town, I am very disappointed this Palace will be coming down,” said Valerie Burke of Superior. “This war on blight is destroying everything that is unique and special to Superior. When tourists come to town, they seek out what is different. Every place in America has their Wal-Mart, strip malls, etc., so tourists come to find what is exceptional. While the Fairlawn and Meteor are a wonderful foundation for cultural sites, the Palace could have been a marvelous cornerstone for a revitalized downtown.” Friends of Superior tried everything from lobbying the council, seeking out the La Crosse engineer who proposed reopening the theater for $390,000, lobbying state and national organizations and even seeking a court injunction to stop demolition of the theater, constructed in 1915 and 1916. In the absence of any directives from a higher authority, city officials are proceeding with demolition plans, even after a complaint was filed with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development by the National Trust of Historic Preservation. That complaint has delayed release of $376,900 in Community Development Block Grant money the city was approved to receive in connection with the purchase of two taverns north of the theater. The National Trust contends the city needs to prepare a historic review for the Palace because of the theater’s proximity to the bars approved for federal funding, even though city officials have not made a request for federal funds to raze the Palace. “We have not been given any notice from HUD, any agency or court that says we cannot proceed with demolition,” said Mayor Dave Ross. He said city officials are in the process of providing “clear and conclusive evidence to HUD” to demonstrate that plans to raze the theater and bars directly to the north are separate projects.

In fact, the city has heard from one HUD official who concluded the city has done nothing wrong. Reading an excerpt from an e-mail sent to the city’s planning director Oct. 10, the mayor cited comments from the HUD planning officer with whom the city worked in developing plans to purchase and demolish Odyssey’s and the End Zone bars immediately to the north. “He says ‘I repeat there is not now or has there ever been any HUD money in this property. No one can afford the multi-million dollars for the rehab of this property. It has been vacant since 1982. Given the poor condition of the property, I can see no developer getting near it. So we save a vacant and deteriorating building — an eyesore — for perpetuity’,” Ross read. “This is the gentleman we have gone lock-step since the very beginning when we broached HUD about this project in our downtown,” Ross said, referring to plans to buy Odyssey’s and the End Zone. Councilor Ed Anderson, who has often been a dissenting voice when a project didn’t make sense to him or questions hadn’t been satisfactorily answered, said he doesn’t see a reasonable alternative to razing the theater. With the loss of state revenue designated toward revitalizing downtowns and the absence of federal assistance, he said the Palace is more than the city can take on when it already has Fairlawn Mansion, the Old Firehouse and Police Museum and restoration of the Meteor to manage. “With my own eyes, I was disgusted with the back of the building, the bricks falling off, the water frozen all the way up there,” Anderson said. He said it looked like the remains of fire-gutted buildings he saw as a child, when his father was a firefighter. “…that’s where a lot of our history went by the way,” Anderson said. “I’d love to save the Palace, but I think that the committee that was formed — there were people that came into it that were serious about it. They did their numbers and they decided they could not financially make it work”.

PaulWolter on April 14, 2007 at 6:48 pm

Does anyone have any pictures of the building to share?

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on May 2, 2009 at 2:40 pm

The year given for this photo is 1984.

Yves Marchand
Yves Marchand on September 5, 2009 at 9:58 am

I suppose the page below has pictures taken inside the Palace Theater. Somebody could confirm this ?

HowardBHaas on August 8, 2011 at 11:45 am

Mural of the theater:

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on May 29, 2012 at 2:21 pm

To belatedly answer Yves Marchand’s question, yes the photos on that page do depict the Palace Theatre.

Prior to the theater’s destruction, a tour of the Palace was captured on video, and it can be watched on this page at the Internet Archive. It can also be downloaded in either of two formats, and if you have problems with the video there is also a page with several thumbnail stills. Many of the interior shots are extremely dark, but the video is still worth a look. Running time is 7:22.

An announcement of the start of construction on the Palace appeared in the September 16, 1916, issue of Moving Picture World:

“New Palace at Superior, Wis.

“Duluth, Minn.—We have received from Frank N. Phelps, manager of New Grand Theater Co. of Duluth, Minn., the following communication: Contracts for construction of the Palace theater at Tower avenue and Eleventh street, Superior, Wis., by the Cook Amusement company, have been let. The amount of the contract was withheld by the amusement company incorporators, the Cook Brothers and Frank Phelps of the New Grand theater. Furnishings for the house, heating, ventilating and lighting will be contracted for later.

“Work on the theater building will begin Monday and it is hoped to have it completed by January 1. The house will be 50 x 140 feet, constructed of reinforced concrete, brick and terra cotta. It will be fireproof and will have a seating capacity of 1,200 on two floors.”

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on May 29, 2012 at 2:30 pm

I failed to explain in my previous comment that the page of thumbnails can be used to start the video at the point each thumbnail depicts, so you can watch any particular segment over again. Just click on it.

Yves Marchand
Yves Marchand on May 29, 2012 at 3:01 pm

Very interesting video. Thanks for sharing Joe.

Tinseltoes on July 9, 2012 at 1:27 pm

Leading off this 1954 trade article on renovated theatres in the Minneapolis area:boxoffice

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