11/26/2010 1 Comment
We consider ourselves to be very lucky today with the reemergence of Playhouse Square (and the theaters – Hanna, State, Ohio, Allen and Palace) as the second largest theater district in the United States. Truth is these theaters were under threat of being torn down in the early 1980′s – and that would have been a great tragedy. However, what is rarely thought about is how many other theaters Cleveland once had in its history. Few people ever talk about the Alhambra Theater (Euclid Avenue and E. 105th), Alpha Theater (Central and E. 33rd), The Colonial Theater, Garden Theatre, Embassy Theater (was located on the site where the National City Tower is today), The Grand Vaudeville, The Castle Theater (Wade Avenue), The Stillman (next to the Statler Hotel and now a parking garage) and, of course the grand-daddy of them all the Hippodrome Theater.
The Hippodrome (or the “Hipp” as everyone called it) was built in 1907 and was located at 720 Euclid Avenue next to the Taylor & Sons department store (we know this building now as 668 Euclid – one of the most embarrassing buildings in Downtown, although there are some discussions about its renewal). The theater was part of an 11-story office building and had entrances on both Euclid Avenue and Prospect Avenue. Today the area is a parking lot.
But in the day, the opening of the Hipp achieved national prominence by none other than The New York Times – article seen below.
CLEVELAND, Ohio, Dec. 30. — The Hippodrome, said to be the most beautiful and largest theatre in America, west of New York, was opened to-night in this city. The fifty-one boxes were occupied by municipal, county, State and Government officials, while the remaining 4,500 seats were taken by society, representative of Northern Ohio.
It was the largest theater west of New York and was able to accomodate 3,458 theater-goers. Some of the most famous performers of the day – including Sarah Bernhardt, Al Jolson, W.C. Fields, and Will Rogers – held court on the Hippodrome stage. The auditorium had private boxes, two balconies (with elevators) and the second largest stage in the U.S. able to hold large-scale productions and operas. The theater also offered an 80-ft water tank for “water spectacles!” Insane. Before you got to the theater you could dine in the appropriately named – Hippodrome Inn.
After a tasty meal – you could enter the theater through an impressive lobby.
Can you imagine walking through this today? I can!
If you had mezzanine seats, then you would walk up these steps.
Of course as they say in the theater, “the stage is the thing.” (Do they really say that in the theater?)
This place was massive! And so beautiful. It is a shame that it does not exist anymore. The theater was purchased by Alvin Krenzler in 1972 and by that time was the last movie house in Downtown Cleveland. Unfortunately, the building was torn down in 1981 and replaced by a damn parking lot. It just isn’t fair for such a beautiful theater not to exist anymore. This last photo, to me, just captures the “big city” experience that Cleveland used to offer in its Downtown. Truth is this picture is just flat out cool.