Columbia Theater

5257 Southwest Avenue,
St. Louis, MO 63139

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Columbia Theater

Viewing: Photo | Street View

The Columbia Theater was located in the Italian section of St Louis, which is known as The Hill, and opened in 1916.

It is believed that a young Joe Garagiola worked at the Columbia Theater as a youngster before going on to greater success in the sport of baseball, along with his neighbor Yogi Berra. In 1948 it was remodeled to the plans of architect Hugo K. Graf.

The Columbia Theater is now a residence.

Contributed by Norman Plant, Ellen Knittel

Recent comments (view all 13 comments)

JamesGrebe on March 2, 2005 at 1:03 pm

It has been rightly pointed out to me that there was indeed a 2m/11r Kilgen organ in the Columbia Theatre. The problem was it was not this Columbia but an earlier one that was located at 6th and St. Charles. It was installed in 1919. The Columbia on Southwest only dates back to around 1925.

gmanstl on January 1, 2009 at 11:32 am

Where was The Columbia Theater located in 1908?

1926 The great Harry Houdini died at the age of 52. Houdini introduced his famous“Milk Can Escape” at the Columbia Theater in St. Louis on January 27, 1908. The handcuffed magician escaped from a padlocked over sized milk can filled with water. In 1922, He escaped from the best straitjacket in the St. Louis Police Homicide
Department’s wardrobe—while suspended from the 5th floor of city hall.

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JAlex on May 8, 2009 at 3:10 pm

George Jones: The Columbia Theatre Houdini appeared at was at 6th & St. Charles downtown. This major vaudeville house closed in mid-1925. The Columbia on Southwest opened in early 1926.

Yves Marchand
Yves Marchand on June 3, 2011 at 10:02 pm

Take a look at the bird’s eye view and see how unusually the auditorium has been transformed :

Friardb on August 3, 2011 at 7:20 pm

I remember seeing a doubble feature posiedon adventure and ledgon of hell house. dont see those any more

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on June 1, 2012 at 12:39 pm

There is an item in the July 15, 1916, issue of The Moving Picture World which says that the Columbia Theatre in the Clifton Heights district of St. Louis had opened recently. The theater operated on a pictures-only policy, with admission charges of five cents on weekdays and ten cents on Saturday and Sunday.

Clifton Heights is immediately adjacent to the neighborhood now called The Hill, and I think that this theater is most likely the same Columbia Theatre opened in 1916. The style of the building with its classical pediment and cornice is characteristic of the later 1910s.

The earlier Columbia Theatre at 6th and St. Charles Streets downtown was in operation at the same time as the Columbia Theatre in Clifton Heights. While the downtown Columbia was primarily a vaudeville house, it was equipped to show movies. an item in the July 8, 1916,issue of The Moving Picture World says that the downtown Columbia would be showing movies made by the Triangle studio, which had previously been exhibited at the American Theatre. The American, owned by the same company as the Columbia, was being closed for the summer.

JAlex on June 1, 2012 at 4:45 pm

I think the Columbia Theatre mentioned in the 1916 Motion Picture World was the Columbia Airdome located at 6230 Columbia. My research shows this operating from 1914 to 1917.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on June 1, 2012 at 5:01 pm

The impression I got from the item was that it was an entirely new theater in 1916. This is what it said:

“The New Columbia Opens.

St. Louis, Mo.—The Columbia, a new theater in the Clifton Heights district of St. Louis, opened recently with an all-picture program, and with an admission price of five cents during the week and ten cents on Saturday and Sunday, when special features are shown.“

Is it possible that the operators of the Columbia Airdome built an enclosed theater on their property in 1916?

jgrebe on October 22, 2016 at 9:47 am

The Columbia is now a private residence , the roof over the auditorium removed, swimming pool installed.

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