Skip to main content

St. Paul's newest theater is a century old

This weekend's opening of the Palace Theatre is actually a re-opening of a building with a long history.

As Atmosphere christens St. Paul's newest music theater Friday night, they're performing on a stage where Charlie Chaplin once stood. And the Marx Brothers ... and a bunch of other people who were really famous 90 or 100 years ago.

That's because the opening of the Palace Theatre is really a re-opening of a building that started out as a showplace for vaudeville acts.

First the library burned down

The Minnesota Historical Society's Placeography page says St. Paul's public library occupied this downtown location until it was destroyed by a fire in 1915.

By the end of the next year it was replaced with the Palace.

In the 1920s it was equipped to show movies and was renamed the Orpheum. It hosted a mixture of vaudeville, movies, and big bands through the 1930s, the website Substreet says, and the adjacent hotel became known as a hangout for mobsters.

In 1946 it was renovated as a movies-only theater, which lasted until 1977 when the curtain came down on the Palace.

For one year in the '80s Garrison Keillor did A Prairie Home Companion there and more recently Brave New Workshop did some comedy shows in the lobby. But for the most part the ol' Palace has been sitting empty for the last 40 years.

Rebirth of a theater

When it was almost too beat up to fix up, the city of St. Paul decided to buy the Palace in 2015. The renovation wound up costing more than $15 million, the Pioneer Press reports.

Now that it's done, nearby businesses are psyched about the 100,000 people a year it's projected to attract, the newspaper says.

First Avenue and Jam Productions have teamed up to run the theater. It has room for about 2,500 people, their website says. Most of them will have general admission tickets to stand on the main floor, which has three tiers. But behind that and in the balcony are more than 700 theater seats – in fact they're the Palace's original seats (reupholstered, though).

The bars and bathrooms are all brand new but the city says the renovation work purposely let the Palace show its age in some places to give it a "frozen in time" aesthetic. There's a time lapse video of the renovation work here and scenes from a December sneak peek of the inside are here.

Opening weekend at the Palace continues with performances by the Jayhawks on Saturday and Phantogram on Sunday. There's a full list of upcoming shows here.

Next Up

image

Animal Humane Society plans trailblazing new campus

Take a look inside the plans for a first-of-its-kind adoption center and animal care campus.

syphilis

Minnesota reports 'concerning level' of syphilis cases

The Minnesota Department of Health says most of the cases are being discovered in the northern part of the state.

Flickr - police lights squad siren - Edward Kimmel

Airport police intercept 5,600 fentanyl pills headed to St. Cloud

Three were arrested following a police raid in St. Cloud.

covid

Minnesota switches to weekly COVID updates

The weekly updates will be provided on Thursdays.

Screen Shot 2022-06-29 at 12.22.08 PM

Man shot inside Oakdale movie theater expected to survive

The 23-year-old victim underwent surgery and is recovering at the hospital.

monkeypox

Minnesota confirms second case of monkeypox virus

More cases are expected in the coming days and weeks, the health department says.

covid

Minnesota's COVID-19 update for Wednesday, June 29

One of the newly reported deaths was a person aged 15-19 from Yellow Medicine County.

Screen Shot 2022-06-29 at 10.19.37 AM

Drone drops bag of candy near kids fishing

A black SUV quickly left the area afterwards.

FLickr - AL Franken 2016 - Lorie Shaull

Al Franken to bring comedy tour to Minneapolis

Acme Comedy is hosting the former senator in late August.

Alabama

Alabama replaces Toby Keith as headliner at MN music festival

The Lakefront Music Festival is set to take place in Prior Lake on July 8-9.

Related

St. Paul's newest theater is a century old

This weekend's opening of the Palace Theatre is actually a re-opening of a building with a long history.

Minnesota's Jayhawks are the backup band on Ray Davies' new album

Sir Ray Davies, co-founder of the Kinks, got the Jayhawks to help him take an up-close look at America

Minnesota's Jayhawks are the backup band on Ray Davies' new album

Sir Ray Davies, co-founder of the Kinks, got the Jayhawks to help him take an up-close look at America

Beck will play the Palace Theatre in St. Paul this summer

Yet another big act announced for St. Paul's Palace Theatre.

Beck will play the Palace Theatre in St. Paul this summer

Yet another big act announced for St. Paul's Palace Theatre.

Massive_Attack_composite

Late postponement for Massive Attack's sold-out St. Paul show

They'd been due to play the Palace Theatre on Mar. 24.

Minnesota soul man Sonny Knight cancels tour to fight cancer

Knight says he's taking April and May off for chemo, but plans to resume touring in June.

Minnesota soul man Sonny Knight cancels tour to fight cancer

Knight says he's taking April and May off for chemo, but plans to resume touring in June.