A grand building on East Broadway between Shelby and Campbell Streets is now home to ORI Furniture USA, but once, it was known as the Broadway Theater. Built in 1915 by Louis F. Steuerle and designed by Joseph & Joseph architects, the theater began immediately hosting live music and vaudeville acts to packed houses of 800 people.
In the 1930s, the marquee canopy still seen today was added and the theater was converted to a movie house. Radio shows were also performed here, including performances by Gene Autry. Early reports of the theater indicated the space was acoustically near perfect.
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In 1960, the property was sold to the Catholic Theater Guild who began staging amateur theater productions. The last performance ran in 1970. Later, the space was converted into the Mad Hatters nightclub and saw acts from rock groups such as Pink Floyd, Ozzy Osborne, Black Sabbath, and Santana. By the 1980s, the theater was vacant and quickly deteriorating.
In 1985, Business Office Supply Company, a predecessor of today’s ORI, purchased the building and began renovating the property for a showroom. The conversion was careful to leave the original plaster detailing of the theater hall and balconies intact.
The Broadway Theater remains one of Louisville’s last great performance halls still in existence. (You might also remember another story about a smaller extant movie house on Frankfort Avenue currently slated for condos.) This property isn’t for sale and has no plans for redevelopment, but I felt its hidden spaces were worth exploring. It’s current owners are currently guarding the ornate spaces and quality of the building for whatever may come down the road.
The building sits along the East Broadway “Bridge” Corridor we’ve been talking so much about lately just down from the monumental Eichhorn Stained Glass Building currently for sale and the Shelby Street Apartments currently under construction. This is just one more reason we believe this part of town deserves to be part of Louisville’s urban regeneration in year’s to come.
[ Credits: Modern photos from the Broken Sidewalk Archive; Historic photos labeled ORI are courtesy ORI Furniture USA; Historic Photos labeled U of L are from the University of Louisville Photographic Archives - Reference URL 1, URL 2, URL 3. ]