Mishawaka’s Tivoli Succumbs to Wrecking Ball

posted by btkrefft on February 4, 2005 at 7:02 am

MISHAWAKA, IN — The Tivoli Theatre, Mishawaka’s 1925 movie palace, gave one last show February 2nd to a crowd of about 75, who watched the decrepit theater withstand several blows by a wrecking ball before it finally gave in and crumbled in a cloud of dust.

According to the South Bend Tribune, for one of the bystanders, Jeremy Unruh, whose theater company might have been one of those to have used a restored Tivoli, seeing the wrecker’s ball slam through the arched window framed by terra-cotta on the brick facade gave him mixed emotions. “I’m sad to see it torn down, but at this point, it’s like seeing a dying animal being put out of its misery.”

Mishawaka mayor Jeff Rea announced the Tivoli’s demolition in last year’s State of the City address. The theater had been in decline since the 60s, when, as the Cinema Art, it began showing adult movies until it was shuttered in 1991.

Attempts to save the historic theater since that time proved unsuccessful, mainly due to lack of funds. In the end, the city acquired the property, though even then, the drive to save the Tivoli continued. Within a couple months, the theater site should be totally cleared for future redevelopment.

Another bystander to the theater’s destruction, Bob Martin, hopes that even though the Tivoli is now history, “We still hope to find a home for the arts in Mishawaka, whether that’s here where the Tivoli was, or somewhere else. We won’t stop trying”.

“Bill of South Bend” wrote in to Cinema Treasures as well:

“The Tivoli theatre of Mishawaka, Indiana was demolished yesterday to the amusement of city officials who refused to save it. Both WNDU television and WSBT television covered the demolition with one of the stations even featuring live helicopter footage of the destruction. Their plans for the site…green space (i.e. a weedy, litter strewn field) or alas, the quintessential parking lot. Wow, I can now park somewhere & visit a city that has been mostly demolished. Actually, I hope to never set foot in that miserable city again. Have a wonderful day, folks.”

Theaters in this post

Comments (19)

Patsy on February 4, 2005 at 9:48 am

Bill of South Bend: My exact thoughts and such a sad commentary in regards to the local mentality! They must feel that this country truly needs another quintessential parking lot! Wake up America! I’ve been to Mishawaka, but probably won’t ever visit again in light of this hard to believe sad cinema news story!

Patsy on February 4, 2005 at 10:44 am

The following site provides Tivoli Theatre photos with demolition story:


I have written the editor/publisher of the South Bend Tribune as I felt he should know my personal feelings. Even though I’m not a Mishawaka resident, I am greatly saddened today upon reading about the demise of the Tivoli and the great loss for that city in the State of Indiana!

Patsy on February 4, 2005 at 11:21 am

“After proving a tough nut to crack, the front of the historic building finally gave way, with the signature front window collapsing in a cloud of dust at 2:20 p.m.” This quote taken from the South Bend Tribune article provided by fellow member, Bryan Krefft. I had hoped that the signature front window could have been saved and incorporated into whatever they plan to build on this land, but not the case and I am simply emotionally drained from reading and see this story with photos! Cinema Treasures is a great site, but with my interest in old movie palaces comes heartache such as what I’m feeling today, Feb. 4, 2005! :–(

Patsy on February 4, 2005 at 11:30 am

Just read Adam Jackson’s Tivoli Theatre article and then proceeded to write him an email which reads as follows:

My name is Pat Locke and I just wanted to thank you for your SBT Tivoli Theatre though it was emotionally disturbing to read today on the Cinema Treasures website. I have written the SBT editor/publisher with my thoughts, too. It was very difficult to see the photos provided with the article, but then I had to read the following words which saddened me to no end:

“After proving a tough nut to crack, the front of the historic building finally gave way, with the signature front window collapsing in a cloud of dust at 2:20 p.m.”

This theatre should have been saved, at all costs and now the fine folks of Mishawaka will have to accept the results of their stupidity!

Sincerely, Pat (Patsy) Locke (Cinema Treasures)

Patsy on February 4, 2005 at 11:34 am

As you can see the demise of the Tivoli has really struck a ‘theatre cord’ with me and I’m in mourning and will be for some time. Hope to hear from others and their personal Tivoli thoughts! I only wish that I had known of this theatre when visiting Mishawaka a few years ago! I wouldn’t feel so badly if only that signature front window could have been SAVED! Some of the local bystanders with video cameras seemed to have smiles on their faces..unbelievable! :–(

Patsy on February 4, 2005 at 11:36 am

First I read about the Arcada in St. Charles and now the Tivoli in Mishawaka…it’s more than I can almost handle yet I know there are similar theatre stories across this land. :–(

Patsy on February 4, 2005 at 11:37 am

Mayor Jeff Rea should be so very proud of himself today! NOT!

megafishnd on February 4, 2005 at 12:33 pm

I can’t believe the idiots couldn’t even save the front window. I Hope Mayor Rea has bad dreams for a month or gets haunted from some spirits that may have been released when the Tivoli was murdered. Oh, anyone know if that Friends of The Tivoli group was ever able to remove that dressing room plaster wall that had those signatures from the days of vaudeville on it? I hope they at least got that out of there.


Patsy on February 4, 2005 at 12:56 pm

Bill: There was a dressing room plaster wall with signatures from the days of vaudeville on it? Oh my God! This Tivoli story is going from bad to worse…if it can get any worse which is highly doubtful! Have to ask, did you witness this ‘murder’ in Mishawaka? Someone should write a letter to the editor of the SBT and entitle it Murder in Mishawaka! If I lived in the surrounding area, I would most certainly write a letter to the editor, though I did send my email to him!

Patsy on February 4, 2005 at 1:00 pm

If the powers to be didn’t save the ‘signature front window’, it’s highly doubtful that the ‘signature wall’ was saved. :–( I’ve heard of theatres having signature walls and if this is the case with the Tivoli that is another reminder of how very special this theatre was to the community and could still have been if only the fine folks of Mishawaka had had a brain…should have gone to see the wonderful wizard in the Wizard of Oz to get one!

megafishnd on February 4, 2005 at 1:08 pm

Yes, the Tivoli did have a signature wall and it may have been saved. They were trying to figure out how to remove the wall intact without trashing it so they could put it in some local museum, but I never did hear if they succeeded or not. No, I didn’t go to the demolition mainly because I probably would have gone to jail for civil disobedience in my attempts to stand in front of the theater and stop the demolition.

megafishnd on February 4, 2005 at 1:17 pm

Oh, if you really want to get in a worse mood than you already are, check out what’s happening with Boston’s Gaiety (sometimes spelled Gayety) theatre. It’s due to die any day now, if it hasen’t already done so.

Patsy on February 4, 2005 at 1:37 pm

I’ll take a look-see, but am sure it won’t ‘make my day, Mr. Eastwood’!

Patsy on February 4, 2005 at 1:40 pm

I’m afraid I would have made local news if I had gone as I can picture myself being chained to the building so the team from Elkart couldn’t do their ‘wonderful and honorable’ work!

sdoerr on February 4, 2005 at 9:07 pm

another ornate theater demolished! Such a shame!

focus on February 5, 2005 at 2:45 am

One lesson that should be learned from this tragedy, is that communities must not wait to the last minute, to react and attempt to save these historical treasures of cultural opulence. There are numerous classical theater palaces all across this country that are unfortunately in peril of the same fate as the Tivoli. Communities must organize early, have a detailed plan for saving these structures of cultural significance and work to ensure that their elected officials understand under no uncertain terms, their administrations shall be held accountable for their blatant disregard for historical and cultural preservation.

The Gaiety in Boston faces the same fate as the Tivoli, and the community there has made the critical error of pining it’s hopes on a last minute law suite, by a local adult establishment to save the fate of this theater. If the community had only formed a non-profit organization, then they would have been able to communicate to their local elected officials in the only terms that they understand and that is the voice of big business. By forming a non-profit, it would have given the community the legal legitimacy needed to work with and nurture the local city administration and evolve a business plan to educate the cities elected officials on the important issues. Some examples of wonderful cooperation and education by non-profits may be found in the cities of Minneapolis, Minnesota, Anderson, Indiana, Muncie, Indiana and Fort Wayne, Indiana. Where those very cities worked hand in hand with non-profits, to save their historical downtown theaters and transform these cultural jewels, into economic recoveries of success for their inner cities.

The community of Mishawaka, did with the help of the Historical Landmarks Foundation Of Indiana, evolve into a parcial structure and retained a well know firm out of Cleveland, to perform a impact study on what a restoration of the Tivoli would mean on the economic renaissance of downtown Mishawaka, but it was to little to late. This city administrations decision had been made long ago, as to what their action would be and the fate of the Tivoli. One must understand that elected officials lay out their administrative agenda long before they ever take office and we must do the same, if these community landmarks are to survive. We must also understand that our elected officials no longer represent their constituents, but pander to businesses that contribute financially to their campaigns. We therefore must work under those very structures in order to be successful ourselves.

What can you do to make a difference?? Contact the Historical Landmarks Foundation located in Indianapolis, Indiana. There you will discover that there is an initiative for historic preservation of theaters in our state. Work with your state senators and house representatives , to help educate your officials about historic preservation. They might be surprised to know that the Department Of Natural Recourses in Washington, D.C, is actively involved in historic theater preservation.

Remember it all starts with just one person who has the tenacity, to not take no for an answer and the ability to reinvent ourselves for success.

Patsy on February 5, 2005 at 8:31 am

Focus: What you have written and I have just read is something all of us should read concerning the Tivoli saga and preserving theatres, in general. Unfortunately, it was too little too late for the Tivoli. I only hope the signature wall was saved, but from the picture posted on the South Bend Tribune website the signature front window was not and this is a real crime as the ‘murder’ of the Tivoli was certainly that…. a crime! When I read “It was like she didn’t want to quit,”, bystander Bob Martin mused. “She gave that wrecking ball a hard time.” it truly brought me to tears and I don’t even have a long time connection to Mishawaka nor it’s Tivoli! May the older residents of Mishawaka who recall the Tivoli in it’s heyday keep their memories of the Tivoli in their hearts and minds forever.

Patsy on February 5, 2005 at 8:44 am

Final Tivoli Thoughts: I’ve been a member of CT for several months now and have to say that the theatre news story concerning the Tivoli affected me emotionally more than I thought it would, but after reading the sad story and then to see the SBT photo of that window coming down so close to that wrecking ball it just blew me away and I thought about that sad and disturbing image for the rest of the day! I wonder if this has affected others as much as it has me over the past 24 hours? I realize there will probably continue to be more sad theatre stories as that, unfortunately, comes ‘with the territory’ when having historic theatres and their ultimate fate as a hobby but the final fate of the Tivoli was a difficult one for me to accept for many reasons!

Patsy on February 5, 2005 at 8:47 am

I wonder if the city officials will at least erect a plaque (with historic photo) for all to remember what once stood so proudly on that land in the City of Mishawaka? If the Friends of the Tivoli are still together, perhaps this can be accomplished!?! One can only hope!

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