Playhouse Square


Playhouse Square emerged in 1921-22 with the opening of the State, Ohio, Allen, Palace, and Hanna theaters near the intersection of Euclid Avenue and East Fourteenth Street. The brainchild of Joseph Laronge, four of the five theaters were interconnected. The largest theater, the Palace, was built to host B. F. Keith's vaudeville performances. In addition to vaudeville, the theater district featured plays, motion pictures, and eventually Cinerama films. By the end of 1969, however, all of the theaters but the Hanna had closed due to declining attendance.

The Junior League of Cleveland was instrumental in saving the theaters from demolition in the 1970s, forming the Playhouse Square Foundation and working with Cuyahoga County commissioners to restore and reopen the theaters. By the turn of the twenty-first century, all of the original theaters were again hosting performances. The complex is the nation's second largest theater district after New York's Lincoln Center.

Videos Show

Playhouse Square, Pt. 1

Ray Shepardson and "the show that saved the theaters"

Playhouse Square, Pt. 2

The Palace Theater

Playhouse Square, Pt. 3

The Palace Theater: Fifth City Vaudeville

Audio Show

The Decline Of The Allen Theatre

John Hemsath of the Playhouse Square Foundation describes the decline of the Allen Theatre leading to its near demolition in the late 1980s

An Unexpected Baby

John Hemsath describes the purchase of the Hanna Building by Playhouse Square

Fruit Loops And Camouflage

John Hemsath speaks on the struggle of finding an appropriate paint scheme for the restored Ohio Theatre

The State Theatre Lobby

John Hemsath recalls the grandeur of the State Theatre Lobby

Photos Show

Palace Theatre, 1929

In the first half of the twentieth century, Cleveland's downtown theaters entertained patrons from all over the region. Here, hundreds gather to see the film "Jazz Heaven." Note the banner on the marquee, which reads: "All Talking, All Musical." The era of silent films had ended only a couple years earlier, with the 1927 release of "The Jazz Singer." Movies with synced music and dialogue, known as talkies, remained a novelty throughout the early 1930s.

Image courtesy of Cleveland State Library Special Collections

Keith Building, ca. 1922

The B.F. Keith Vaudeville Building, home to the Palace Theater, ca. 1922. Vaudeville theater peaked in popularity during the 1920s. The advent of sound films led to the virtual extinction of the vaudeville form by the late 1930s.

Image courtesy of Cleveland State Library Special Collections

Playhouse Square, ca. 1940s

Image courtesy of Cleveland State Library Special Collections

Ohio Theater Renovation

The Ohio Theater reopened in July 1982 after undergoing nearly 4 million dollars worth of renovations.

Image courtesy of the Playhouse Square Foundation

Allen Theater, ca. 1990s

The Allen Theater, which reopened in 1998 after coming very close to being demolished, will become the home of Cleveland State University's theater and dance productions in 2011.

Image courtesy of the Playhouse Square Foundation

Lobby Performance, 1973

"Jacque Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris" is shown being performed in the Lobby of the State Theater in 1973. This long-running hit is widely considered as the play that saved the theaters.

Image courtesy of the Playhouse Square Foundation

Cinerama at the Palace, 1958

Cinerama - a process for showing motion pictures - opened at the Palace Theater in 1956 and lasted until 1959. Cinerama used three projectors operating simultaneously to display movies onto an oversized, deeply-curved screen.

Image courtesy of Cleveland State Library Special Collections

Palace Theater Marquee

The restored Palace Theater marquee, ca. 1988

Image courtesy of the Playhouse Square Foundation

Cite this Page

“Playhouse Square,” Cleveland Historical, accessed March 1, 2015, http:/​/​clevelandhistorical.​org/​items/​show/​61.​
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