Maplewood History: A Surprising Discovery About Our Long Forgotten Theater District

OK, you’ve had a long day at work.  You’re hot, tired and the crowded, polluted city is getting on your nerves.  You need a break so what can you do?  You can choose the balm that a large number of your fellow city dwellers regularly do.  That is head out to Maplewood, that leafy, shaded, cool suburb that’s only a nickel ride away on the electric car line.  After all it’s late summer in the year 1914 and there’s a lot going on in Maplewood entertainment wise.

Let’s see you went to the Powhatan Air Dome on Sutton last week.  The visit before that was to the Maplewood Theater at 7320 Manchester.  Nice place but all inside.  Hey what about that new place that opened at Roseland Terrace and Manchester?  It has an odd name, The Hippodrome, but it seats 2500 people on the roof.  The Powhatan can only hold 1500 in the Air Dome which is outside right next to the building.

Better check the listings before you make your decision.  There are a lot of choices among the many movies and vaudeville shows available.  You can read the listings in the paper on the way out.  You won’t have to wait long for a ride.  After all a suburban trolley car leaves from downtown every seven minutes.  How else could all those thousands of people get out there and back so conveniently?  Have a great time.

I wrote the above text about five years ago for a post that was on the Maplewood Patch website.  We truly did have a theater district here.  A surprising accidental discovery I just made shows that it was even larger than I had originally thought.  I was searching the Post-Dispatch archive for information about the Maplewood Theater when I found an article from Feb. 21, 1929.  The title above the photo reads, “Ruins of Maplewood Theater After $100,000 Fire”.

My first thought was that I never knew that the Maplewood Theater had burned.  And for good reason…it hadn’t.  The photograph would have been more accurately titled if it had read, “Ruins of A Maplewood Theater After $100,000 Fire”.

It is about a fire at the (previously unknown to me) Majestic Theater in Maplewood.  I had heard a rumor of its existence and found a drawing that showed a theater in the 7400 block but that was all I knew until I stumbled upon this article.

Sometime ago Matt Williams of TKO DJ’s and St. Louis Closet Company donated some blueprints and odds-and-ends (mostly having to do with the Maplewood Mill) to our archive.  This scrap from some unknown plan was in the box.  I was intrigued because it shows a “Theatre Building” just west of where Tiffany Diner is located today.

This may help you realize what area the plan shows. I had heard a rumor that there had once been a theater on this block but had never found anything solid on it. I believe it was the theater historian, Jerry Alexander, who first mentioned it to me.  Then while searching the Post-Dispatch archive for more information on the Maplewood Theater, I stumbled across the following article.

So far I don’t know much more about this theater.  It is the fourth large theater we had in Maplewood.  I’m not sure what years the Marshall/Majestic and the Hippodrome were in operation.  This definitely constitutes a theater district.

I now know that the Maplewood Theater opened about 1910 in the Scheidt Hardware building.  It had been renamed the Lyric Theater by the time it closed in 1916 when that building was sold to Emil Scheidt.  It reopened probably sometime in 1925 at 7170 Manchester.  The auditorium was demolished in 1988.  That building seated 1079 patrons.

The Powhatan opened sometime in the early 20th century at 3107 Sutton, moved to a larger building next door at 3111 Sutton that held 1000 patrons and closed in 1949.  The building was demolished in 1956.  The Powhatan advertised that they could seat 1500 movie lovers in their Airdome.  Airdome was a word many theaters used to designate their outdoor seating.

I know very little about the Maplewood Hippodrome which makes me suspect it may not have been in business for very long.  They advertised the very high quality of their building and that they could seat 25oo on the roof.

It is mind boggling to try and imagine thousands of theater goers wandering through the streets of our town.  It must have happened.

Below are links to some of my previous posts on this subject.

The next one is my lead-in to my argument for the preservation of the Maplewood Theater building and the restoration of the marquee.  I still believe these to be very important for our town and the area where they are located.

And my most recent. The Maplewood Hippodrome

 

3 thoughts on “Maplewood History: A Surprising Discovery About Our Long Forgotten Theater District

  1. Monarch did not open until the 90’s. As an “old timer” too, I don’t know of a state office on Manchester west of Sutton.

  2. Back in the ’80’s, I used to come to Maplewood once or twice a year to check in with the Missouri State office on Manchester just west of the Monarch restaurant. When did that office begin, and when did it leave Maplewood, and to where did it move?

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