438 Wabasha Street North,
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Previously operated by: Publix Theaters Corporation
Firms: Toltz, King & Day
Styles: Italian Renaissance
The Tower Theatre was opened in 1921 for Joseph Friedman, a local entrepreneur who operated a handful of small Saint Paul theatres since 1911.
Designed with a Venetian Renaissance facade, in red and gold patterned brickwork with an arched window framed by pillars and intricate cream-colored terra-cotta, the Tower Theatre was unique among Saint Paul’s movie houses at the time. A small lobby had walls lined in marble, and its 1,100 seat auditorium contained a large balcony, orchestra pit, and Barton Pipe Organ.
In 1926, Friedman leased his theatre to the Finkelstein & Rubin chain, which in turn was taken over by the Publix empire in 1929. During the Depression, when Publix was near bankruptcy, Friedman took the Tower Theatre back due to non-payment.
Friedman remodeled and modernized the theatre’s interior in 1933, but soon after that, Publix took over the Tower Theatre once again.
Starting around 1938, the Tower Theatre began a double feature program, and by the 1950’s, was even showing triple bills, mainly of B-grade horror or science-fiction films.
Not long after the Tower Theatre closed its doors in 1959, it was torn down.
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