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, constituting the nation's second largest performing arts complex after New York's Lincoln Center. In addition to ticket sales, the Playhouse Square Foundation developed an extensive real estate portfolio stretching from the theater district to the suburbs, which supported ongoing preservation of the historic properties themselves while contributing to broader economic development.

In recent years Playhouse Square Foundation added dramatic arches at three major approaches to the district, along with LED sign boards and the centerpiece GE Chandelier at Euclid and East 14th. The Foundation also funded a 34-story apartment tower, the Lumen, just east of the Hanna Building.


Fifth City Vaudeville
John Hemsath describes the history of vaudeville in Playhouse Square and the amenities for performers at the Palace Theater. ~ Source: CSU Center for Public History + Digital Humanities
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The Palace Theater
Clevelanders recount their memories of the Palace Theater. ~ Source: CSU Center for Public History + Digital Humanities
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Ray Shepardson and "the show that saved the theaters"
Thomas Rathburn describes how Ray Shepardson and the hit show, Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris, helped to save Cleveland's theaters. ~ Source: CSU Center for Public History + Digital Humanities
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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
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An Unexpected Baby
John Hemsath describes the purchase of the Hanna Building by Playhouse Square
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Fruit Loops And Camouflage
John Hemsath speaks on the struggle of finding an appropriate paint scheme for the restored Ohio Theatre
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The State Theatre Lobby
John Hemsath recalls the grandeur of the State Theatre Lobby
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