Cleaning Up Broadway

30Aug07

There’s been a lot of chatter recently concerning one the most historic streets in Los Angeles. A huge resurgence is underway Downtown, and it’s beginning to spread to the Historic Core.

The Palace Theater is the oldest remaining Orpheum theater in the country, and evidence of that can be found in the recently revealed engraving above the Palace marquee. Angelenic was there, with camera.

From the Palace website:

Every major vaudeville star on the Orpheum circuit performed in this theatre. The names in light included: the Marx Brothers, W.C. Fields, Sarah Bernhardt, Bob Hope, Al Jolson and Will Rogers. When Harry Houdini performed his stage magic and death-defying escapes, an ambulance was kept parked on the curb in case of emergency.

In 1911, the theater could house 2,200 people on the orchestra and two balconies, the mezzanine and the gallery. The gallery was designed for “Negroes Only,” in a rare artifact of the generally tolerant Los Angeles. There is some controversy whether it was used as a minority balcony for people who were not white or if it was a “third class” balcony for the poor with cheaper seating. Either way, the gallery had a separate entrance from the alley and separate restrooms. The gallery was closed in the forties when the theatre was renovated to be movie theatre. Today the theater utilizes 1050 seats in the orchestra and mezzanine only.

One interesting feature is the Women’s Lounge. It has glass doors that overlook the theatre entrance. In 1911 women were not permitted by custom to go to the theater unescorted. Women were also not permitted to travel with a young man without a chaperone. This room protects against these social pitfalls. The windows looking into the foyer were designed to help women watch for their dates.

Cleaning of the Palace follows work on the Tower Theater at 8th & Broadway. With the Los Angeles Theatre and the Million Dollar Theater at varying stages of cleaning and restoration, the lights are beginning to shine a little brighter on Broadway, Los Angeles.

Now, let’s get those streetcars running again.

Photo from angelenic

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