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Historic Theatres in Ohio

Draw back the curtain to learn more about these historic spots.

The Canton Palace Theatre

Historic Theatres in Ohio

By Anietra Hamper

Posted On: Oct 21, 2021

As I walk into the historic Ohio Theatre in Columbus the patrons are dressed in their finest clothes and the quiet elegance of gilded details on the painted ceilings, red velvet auditorium seats and live orchestra pits transport us all into another era. The ambiance gives me a glimpse into what the theater experience might have been like in 1928 when it was the Loew's movie house. 

interior view of ohio theatre in columbus showing the ceiling with a chandelier

The majestic Ohio Theatre, like many old theatres in the state, was saved from demolition by passionate donors who wanted to preserve this remarkable piece of history. Catching a performance at one of these historic movie houses or vaudeville theatres not only adds a special memory the the experience, but it supports the ongoing efforts required to maintain these elegant structures. There are dozens of them throughout Ohio.

Central Ohio

There are several more historic theaters in Columbus. The Palace Theatre, an old vaudeville venue in the 1930-1950s is popular for theater and musical performances. The Southern Theatre, which opened in 1896 as an opera house, is one of the oldest in the state providing an intimate performance venue especially for acoustic musical acts.

The Lincoln Theatre underwent renovations a several years ago, and helped to revitalize the King-Lincoln district of Columbus. In the past, it was a popular venue for jazz performances. It now attracts top performance artists and its Egyptian Revival-style décor makes it a stand-out attraction for any performing arts lover. 

Newark, Ohio has the Midland Theatre which is a crown jewel in the state. Originally a silent film venue in the 1920s, it sat abandoned for 14 years after significant damage caused by the Blizzard of ’78. It was eventually salvaged and impeccably restored to near original condition attracting well-known artists and musicians.

The Marion Palace Theatre has remained a centerpiece of the community since it opened as a vaudeville theatre in 1928. In its heyday, the theatre attracted acts like Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington. Like the historic timelines of so many other theatres, it lost its allure over the years and fell into disrepair until it was resorted with most of its original charm in the 1970s.

It's one of only 16 atmospheric theaters remaining in the United States (out of more than 100 built around the world by movie palace architect John Eberson). Today, the grand theatre attracts national acts and features regional performers.

Northeast Ohio

The Akron Civic Theatre is also a John Eberson creation that started out in 1919 as a venue called the Hippodrome. The original project was supposed to be a grand entertainment and shopping venue but it went belly up before completion. It became the Loew's Theatre in 1929 -- fantastically designed with a Mediterranean and medieval flare.

It was nearly destroyed until a 2001 renovation effort gave the mystical looking theater new life. Now the theatre attracts acts like Cirque Ziva acrobatics, musical acts, theater productions and ballet.

Southeast Ohio

The artistic core of Nelsonville in southeastern Ohio is the restored Stuart’s Opera House resurrected from a state of disrepair in the 1920s and a devastating fire in 1980. The elegant and intimate 1879 opera house maintains its charm with new acts arriving every year spanning genres of contemporary and folk music, theatre and dance productions and art exhibits.

When you visit, be sure to book some extra time just to wander in the theatre and look at the walls covered with original hand-printed letterpress promotional posters.

Northeast Ohio

One of the largest historic theatre restoration projects in the country was Playhouse Square in Cleveland. The original five theatres that made up Playhouse Square were restored to a 10-theatre collection that now attract world-class performance acts. It would take several days to experience the variety of performance arts available at the Playhouse Square venues, but it could make for a wonderful themed getaway.

More historical theatres in Ohio to check out

For more arts and culture, check out #OhioFindItHere at Ohio.org

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