The St. Charles Theatre was one of the most luxurious theaters in the country when
it was constructed in the early 1830's. It cost more than $320,000 and had a seating
capacity of over 4,000. The theater was located on St. Charles Avenue, between
Poydras and Gravier Streets. It burned down in 1842 and was rebuilt about a year
later, on the same extravagant scale.
The second St. Charles Theatre had a longer run, but, eventually, suffered the same
fate as the first and burned to the ground in 1899. In 1902, a third theater was built
on the spot - respectable, but less grand - and, this time, it was called the Orpheum
and was famous for its vaudeville acts.
When a new Orpheum Theater was constructed in 1924, just a few blocks from the
first, the old Orpheum was sold to the Saenger Theater group. They re-named it,
giving it the name of the first two theaters on that site, the St. Charles, and made it a
combination movie house and live stage theater. The theater was home to one of
the last hold-outs of stock theatrical companies in the city. But, in 1932, it was
remodeled and turned into a movies-only theater.
For over 120 years, a theater stood at this location, running the gamut, from
repertory companies to variety shows to movies. For a brief time, in the late 1940's,
it was even home to a burlesque company and called Casino de Paree.
When it was sold in 1965, it had been empty for several years. The building was torn
down to make room for a parking lot - an ignominious ending for the site of what was
once one of the most important theaters in American history.
|Theatres of New Orleans: Upper left, Academy of Music, upper right, St. Charles Theatre,
lower left, National Theatre, lower center, French Opera House, lower right, Varieties Theatre.
|Above and below, the St. Charles Theatre during
its second incarnation, between 1843 - 1899.
|Above and below, the theater when it was
called the Orpheum, probably in the 1910's.
|The theater as the Casino de Paree, 1940's.
Notice the Liberty Theater next door.
|The old St. Charles Theatre shorty before demolition.