Caesar's Cafe (1896-1915)
Later the Royal Theater (1915-1922)
Later the Rivoli Theatre (1922-1970?)
Later the Towne Theatre
210 N. 6th Street
Architect: Charles K. Ramsey
Built in 1896, this two story commercial structure originally housed Caesar's Cafe. Operated by renowned German immigrant and restauranteer Louis Caesar, the establishment enjoyed a reputation as one of the city's better restaurants and caterers, enjoying a particularly prosperous run during the 1904 World's Fair. The coming of Prohibition in 1920, and declining business overall, would eventually compel Mr. Caesar to retire in 1926.
The cafe had long since moved elsewhere by that point, as the building was converted to a theater in 1915 to meet the demand of the new motion picture craze. Opening as the Ritz Theater, the new picture house seated a thousand, came with "a good orchestra to furnish the music", and featured an ivory, gold and blue color scheme.
The Ritz didn't last long; only six months later, the Royal Theater opened in its place, serving as the "downtown home of first-run Paramount pictures". Its May 7th debut featured Geraldine Farrar "in her greatest Photoplay success, MARIA ROSA" as well as a "high-class orchestra" at "St. Louis' Downtown Theater De Luxe". Admission ran 10 and 20 cents. (PD May 7 1916)
In 1922, the building was sold and became the Rivoli Theatre. The Rivoli Theatre Company planned $30,000 of alterations to the building, with "a modern ventilating system" and seating for 700, with the intent of making the building among the top theaters downtown. (PD Oct. 1 1922)
The Rivoli lasted for decades, finally changing over to the Towne Theatre circa 1970. In its latter days, it was one of downtown's last surviving movie houses. It closed out its final days as an X-rated theater and also had a reputation as a cruising spot for gay men.
Razed in September 1983, the Towne Theatre's loss was largely overshadowed by the hugely controvertial destruction happening a block away for the Gateway Mall. Portions of its ornament were salvaged, in particular the five sgraffito panels which characterized the facade; some now reside in the collection of the Building Arts Foundation.
The building's site is now part of the massive Metropolitan Square Building, the city's tallest.
Rivoli Theatre, Sixth Street south of Olive Street - 1925 view from the Missouri History Museum
Image from the City of St. Louis's Cultural Resources Office; original here.
Towne Theater in the 1980s. Image contributed by Norman Plant.