Built St. Louis > > Recalled to Life || Historic Downtown > > Kiel Auditorium and Opera House

The Auditorium in March 2007 -- empty for over a decade.

The Auditorium in a circa-1940s postcard view, with its back half still intact.

Peabody Opera House
The massive Municipal Auditorium is a commanding presence on the Gateway Mall, part of an impressive line-up of public and governmental buildings lining Market Street. But only half of it remains -- and that half has been empty for many years.

The building was completed in 1934, and originally contained an auditorium back-to-back with the Opera House. The huge, limestone-clad building features a row of massive, multi-story columns facing Market Street, as well as numerous Beaux Arts details (and a few Art Deco oriented ones as well.)

The auditorium half (to the south) was torn down in 1990 to be replaced with a slick new hockey arena for the St. Louis Blues -- a move that also cost St. Louis the Arena. The new hockey arena opened in 1992 and has had a rotating array of names: first the Keil Center, then the Savvis Center, today the Scottrade Center, tomorrow some other company.

As part of the deal that allowed them to tear down the auditorium, the Kiel Center Partners (now known as Clark Enterprises) was supposed to renovate the Opera House; however, it simply hasn't happened. Having repaired the roof and stabilized the the building, KCP claims it has fulfilled its financial obligation to the project; meanwhile the building remains shuttered.

In 1998, a fact-finding panel investigated the building and concluded that it is structurally sound. Re-opening the Opera House was a hotbutton issue in the 2001 St. Louis mayoral campaign, with several candidates stating they intend to make re-opening the building a high priority, but six years later the building is still vacant.

The city's development site stated that Don Breckenridge planned to renovate the building and as a cultural center. Other potential schemes mentioned in recent years included turning it into the home for a local school. None of these plans appears to have moved forward.

More recent word was that the building was purchased by Sports Capital Partners (aka SPC Worldwide); chairman Dave Checketts, who purchased the St. Louis Blues hockey franchise in 2005, plans to reopen the Opera House as a performance venue.

In the mean time, well-wishers can at least breath easy in the knowledge that the building is in no immediate danger of demolition -- but the longer it's shuttered, the more likely that decay will set in.

In 2010, renovation finally commenced. Details here.

More on the Kiel Opera House at Ecology of Absence.

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