East Broadway Theater a Hidden Gem

Broadway Theater Historic Photo (Courtesy ORI)
Broadway Theater Historic Photo (Courtesy ORI)
The Broadway Theater
The Broadway Theater. (Branden Klayko / Broken Sidewalk)

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.

Inside the Broadway Theater (from the U of L Photographic Archives)
Inside the Broadway Theater (UL Photographic Archives)

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 Osbourne, 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.

Inside The Broadway Theater
Inside The Broadway Theater. (Branden Klayko / Broken Sidewalk)

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.

More from Broken Sidewalk:

[ 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. ]

Branden Klayko

Founder and Editor at Broken Sidewalk
Branden is a writer and architectural designer living in Brooklyn. After graduating from the College of Architecture at Washington University in St. Louis, Branden practiced architecture in Louisville where he worked on several large LEED Certified buildings. Branden is the senior web editor at The Architect’s Newspaper, where he covers architecture, design, and urbanism. He has also written about design for Designers & Books, sustainability for Inhabitat, and architecture for the American Institute of Architects. He founded Broken Sidewalk in 2007, an online collaborative promoting architecture and urbanism in Louisville, Kentucky and the Midwest.

4 COMMENTS

  1. “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.”

    It seems unlikely to me that Pink Floyd would’ve played there, through most of the 1970s they played arenas, not nightclubs. But that information is on ORI’s site so who knows? Anyway, thanks for the look into this beautiful building.

  2. It is so nice to see that the theatre built by my great grandfather (my mother’s, mother’s father)has been restored to its former grandeur. In the ’50s and early ’60s I performed with the Catholic Theatre Guild and was in a number of plays on the stage of this fabulous building. Reading the Broken Sidewalk article and looking at the pictures brought back many a happy memory. Thank you to ORI for the renovation.

  3. Theatre Historical Society was fortunate to be able to tour this building on our recent summer "conclave" (theatre tour). What a wonderful collection of photos from its glory days as a movie theater! The current owners seem to be very proud of the history of their building and even though it has been strongly repurposed, they theater's roots are respected. BRAVO!

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