Kiel Municipal Auditorium
St. Louis,
MO


Municipal Auditorium at 1400 Market Street St. Louis, Missouri
postcard courtesy Built St. Louis

Building for the Municipal Auditorium and Opera House in St. Louis, Missouri was begun in 1932. Designed by St. Louis architects Louis LaBeaume and Eugene S. Klein, it served St. Louis for six decades as a center for conventions, public meetings, expositions, sports events and musical performances.1


foundation work for the new Municipal Auditorium and Opera House - Apr. 5, 1932
Photo from the collection of the St. Louis Building Arts Foundation courtesy eoa

After two city blocks bounded by Market, 14th, Clark and 15th had been cleared, work started on the foundation for the new Municipal Auditorium and Opera House.2 


Construction well underway - Nov. 10, 1932
Photo from the collection of the St. Louis Building Arts Foundation courtesy eoa


Looking southwest from the corner of 14th and Market streets - Nov. 10, 1932
Photo from the collection of the St. Louis Building Arts Foundation courtesy eoa


Laying the cornerstone on November 11, 1932
Photo from the collection of the St. Louis Building Arts Foundation courtesy eoa

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.3


Market Street, St. Louis - 1937
Photo by W.C Persons courtesy Missouri History Museum

According to a 1934 mayoral proclamation, the Auditorium was "designed to enrich the peoples' lives and increase their enjoyment and...add to the attractiveness and popularity of our City as it will bring to us great conventions and cultural activities."1


Photo courtesy web

Originally known as the Municipal Auditorium, Kiel Auditorium was officially named in honor of former St. Louis mayor Henry W. Kiel on March 26, 1943. Kiel, a strong supporter of the arts, had encouraged the idea of a municipal auditorium and helped that concept become a reality.1


Postcard of Kiel Auditorium - ca. 1950s

During its early years, Kiel Auditorium hosted such varied events as the Grand Opera presentation of "La Boheme," starring the famous soprano Lucrezia Bori, the first National Folk Festival, and a two-week-long exposition of St. Louis business and products called "St. Louis on Parade." Later, the facility continued its tradition of diversity by hosting events ranging from the Ziegfield Follies, the Grand Ole Opry and the Metropolitan Opera to roller derby competitions, wrestling, and Broadway productions of "Annie," "A Chorus Line," "Evita" and "My Fair Lady." 1


Kiel Auditorium - 1972
Photo courtesy westvillagebob

In addition to serving as the primary venue for the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, the St. Louis Philharmonic Orchestra, Dance St. Louis and St. Louis' annual Veiled Prophet Ball, Kiel Auditorium served as the home court of the St. Louis Hawks professional basketball team and the Saint Louis University Billikens basketball team.1


courtesy Lee Cotten

On New Years day, January 1, 1956, Elvis, Scotty, Bill and DJ performed for the first time at Kiel Auditorium.  Though it was their first appearance at Kiel, it was the second trip to perform in St. Louis for Elvis, Scotty and Bill, having performed two dates the previous October at the Missouri Theater on a bill with Roy Acuff and Kitty Wells. For the January appearance they shared the bill with Hank Snow, Slim Whitman, Webb Pierce, Benny Martin, comedian/singers Rod Brasfield, Whitey Ford (the Duke of Paducah) and Dr. Lew Childre.

Their next appearance at Kiel was just over a year later, on March 29, 1957.  By now Elvis had made all the television appearances he would make until after his discharge from the Army.  His first movie, Love Me Tender, had been released the November before and he had completed production of his second, Loving You, earlier that month.  The St. Louis date was the second stop of their first tour that year that had started in Chicago the day before where he debuted the Gold Lame' suit custom tailored for him by Nudie Cohen of Hollywood.



Elvis backstage at Kiel Auditorium - Mar. 29, 1957
Photos courtesy FECC/thefunkyangel

The review in the St. Louis Dispatch the following day read, Elvis Presley, shimmering in sequins and metallic gold cloth, writhed and sang last night in Kiel Auditorium convention hall before a capacity crowd of about 11,000 spectators, most of them teen-age girls. Many times the appreciative audience drowned out Presley.

The performer, who had secluded himself in a Hotel Chase room all day under an assumed name, had been spirited by police into the auditorium by an obscure alley entrance to avoid admirers standing guard at the stage door.4


Elvis with fans in St. Louis - March 29, 1957
Photo courtesy FECC(?)

He had been escorted to the hall in time to avoid the Market street traffic snarl caused by his scheduled appearance. Shortly before 8 p.m. curtain time, eastbound machines were inching along from a point west of Union Station.
The "rock and roll" singer did not go on stage until after the show's mid point intermission. Entertainers accompanying him on a nine performance tour did their turns while Presley talked to reporters and radio disc jockeys in Assembly Hall 2. What was scheduled as a press conference turned out to be dominated by autograph seeking teen-agers who had infiltrated the police lines.
4


Elvis onstage at Kiel Auditorium - Mar. 29, 1957
Photo courtesy Brian Petersen

After the intermission, during which spectators had another chance to buy Elvis Presley souvenirs, the 22-year-old performed bounded onto the stage and the uproar began. He glittered and grimaced. Rhinestones embedded even in the laces of his gold colored, raised heel shoes added to the dazzling sight.
Girls screamed and hundreds of flash bulbs were discharged, making the hall look as if it were under an artillery barrage. Presley clung to the microphone standard and staggered about in a distinctive, distraught manner, waiting for the noise to subside a bit.
When he mouthed the opening words of his first song, the uproar began again. Girls shrieked. Elvis shrieked, but he was outnumbered. His contortions were ecstatically received. His most appreciated medium of expression seemed to be burlesque's traditional hip movements.
4


Elvis in the Gold Lame' suit designed by Nudie Cohen
Photo courtesy Ger Rijff

Musicians from a jazz concert playing to a small audience in the auditorium's adjoining opera house sneaked into the wings to watch Presley perform. "Man, how much do you suppose those yard goods cost him?' one of them speculated.
Elvis staggered and sang more songs evoking the same audience reaction, each presentation becoming a repetition of the first.
Australian promoter Lee Gordon said the gold suit had cost $2500. "It's real gold, with impregnated unborn calf skin, or something of the sort," he said.
Gordon's publicity manager made the understatement of the year, for publicity men, when he said, "It's very dramatic."
He overcompensated by adding: "It's almost unbelievable when you see an artist walk out on a stage and receive an ovation like the one we've witnessed tonight."
After Presley concluded his part in the show and had been whisked out the back door, teen-agers, again mostly girls, massed outside the stage door and chanted "We want Elvis." Other girls were reluctant to leave the hall's concourse, unwilling to believe attendants who told them Presley left the building.
4


Elvis with fans in St. Louis - Mar. 29, 1957
Photo courtesy web

During the earlier press conference, in response to directions by photographers, he dutifully kissed girls on the cheek, and posed with them, clasping one on either side by the waist. He quickly disengaged himself, not with impolite haste, after each photograph.
He looked like a young man being dutifully attentive to his fans, who are providing him with a life as golden as his suit.
4

Following St. Louis, the tour went on to Indiana, Detroit, Buffalo, Toronto and Ottawa before ending in Philadelphia on April 6th.


Senator Eugene McCarthy at Kiel - Aug. 14, 1968
Photo Bettmann/CORBIS

On August 14, 1968 Senator Eugene McCarthy met with Missouri's delegates to the Democratic Convention and spoke to a crowd of 14,000 at Keil Auditorium. With a symbolic dove of peace with draped red, white, and blue bunting in the background on the stage, his biggest ovation during the speech came when he said "the pursuit of this (Vietnam) war can no longer be justified on political or economic grounds -- or on moral grounds."


Jimi Hendrix at Kiel - Nov. 3, 1968
Photo courtesy rising70


Elvis onstage at Kiel - Sep. 10, 1970
Photo Dagmar


Ad for Johnny Cash at Kiel - 1971
courtesy Songbill

Elvis would return to perform at Kiel with the TCB band three times, on September 10, 1970, June 28, 1973 and lastly on March 22, 1976 almost twenty years to the day since his first appearance. In addition to Elvis, some of the many others who performed at Kiel Auditorium in no particular order were Jack Benny, Neil Diamond, Duke Ellington, Judy Garland, Katharine Hepburn, Bob Hope, Johnny Cash, Jimi Hendrix, the Jackson Five, Glenn Miller and His Orchestra, the Supremes, Bob Dylan, Billy Joel, Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, and Stevie Wonder.


The Rolling Stones at Kiel Auditorium - July 9, 1972
Photo courtesy fendercoronado

In 1992, St. Louis city officials recognized the size inadequacy of the 9,000-seat Auditorium as well as the need for a new, state-of-the-art arena.1


Demolition of Kyle Auditorium - 1993

Photo courtesy UrbanReviewSTL


Demolition of Kyle Auditorium - 1993

Photo courtesy UrbanReviewSTL

The auditorium portion was torn down in to make way for the multipurpose Kiel Center, which was opened in 1994. In August 2000, naming rights for the building were sold to SAVVIS Communications Corporation. In 2006, naming rights for the building were sold to Scottrade, a St. Louis-based leading branch-supported online brokerage. The building is now known as Scottrade Center.1




Photos courtesy web

Scottrade Center is now the home of the St. Louis Blues Hockey Club. Scottrade Center also features a full range of arena programming, including concerts, ice shows, family shows and other sporting events. Scottrade Center plays host to approximately 175 events per year, bringing nearly 2 million guests to downtown St. Louis annually and ranking it as one of the top arenas in the country.1


Auditorium Marquee - 2008
Photo courtesy djflowerz

The last event held in the Opera House was in 1991. 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. Having repaired the roof and stabilized the the building, KCP claimed it has fulfilled its financial obligation to the project but the building remained shuttered.  In 1998, a fact-finding panel investigated the building and concluded that it was structurally sound.3


Kiel Opera House with Scottrade Center in rear
Photo courtesy web

In April of 2009 it was announced that there were plans to reopen the Opera House and that a $40 - $60 million renovation was underway with hopes to be reopened by December 2010 (video).5  In May the St. Louis Board of Aldermen approved a $74 million package to finance the reopening of the Kiel and by October, the St. Louis Dispatch that the project was on schedule and that David Urban, the General Manager of the New York's Radio City Music Hall during its renovations had been placed in charge to make it happen again.6


aerial view of Kiel Opera House and Scottrade Center - 2009
Photo Microsoft EarthData


aerial view of Kiel Opera House and Scottrade Center - 2009
Photo Microsoft EarthData


aerial view of Kiel Opera House and Scottrade Center - 2009
Photo Microsoft EarthData

page added November 11, 2009

All ads are courtesy Lee Cotten's "Did Elvis Sing in Your Hometown?" The photo of Elvis at Kiel in September of 1970 by Dagmar was used here with her permission. Check out her photo book "ELVIS! By Dagmar" and a sampling of her R'nR photos at www.dagmarphoto.com.

1 excerpt from Guide to Scottrade Center: History
2 excerpt from "Kiel Opera House" courtesy Ecology of Absence
3 according to Built St. Louis
4 from "Writhing, Side-Burned Guitar Strummer Delights Teen-Agers -- Rhinestones in Laces of Gold Shoes" - St. Louis Dispatch - March 30, 1956 courtesy Ger Rijff's Long Lonely Highway
5 according to "Kiel Opera House To Reopen" by John Auble, KTVI-TV Fox 2 St. Louis - April 20, 2009
6 according to "Kiel Opera House" by Judith Newmark, St. Louis Post-Dispatch - October 25, 2009 courtesy STLToday.com
 


From Kiel to Peabody

Hello,

I just found Scotty's web page on the Kiel Auditorium. I must say it's Awesome! More people should be aware of this.


Ed Golterman
Photo by Ed Kennedy

I am Ed Golterman, my grandfather was Guy Golterman the grand opera producer who's Aida opened at the Kiel opera house on April 21st in 1934. He presented several seasons in the opera house and a couple in the convention hall. The Golterman grand opera set four world or U.S. attendance records - in St. Louis and Cleveland.


Set of Verdi's Aida by Richard Rychteric, set designer from the MET
Kiel Opera House - Apr. 21, 1934
Photo courtesy Ed Golterman

In 1998 I began efforts toward the restoration and reopening of Kiel Opera House. I found many hard battles, and with others helped save it from several gutting attempts and worked months to obtain a grant to get it on the National Register of Historic Places. It was placed on the Register in February of 2000 which made it a viable business venture to restore.


The Municipal Auditorium - by Hugh Ferriss, famed architectural perspectivist
Photo courtesy Ed Golterman

In 2008, I published 'The Mugging of Kiel Opera House' which began with what the aerial photos on your site show. They've cut into the opera house at an angle destroying dozens of dressing rooms. Over the years the hockey side commandeered more space, and it looked like they were never going to reopen it. With the reopening of the opera house last year a 13-year journey ended.


Portions of From Kiel to Peabody exhibit on display
Photo courtesy Ed Golterman

Since 1998 I've traveled with an exhibition entitled "From Kiel to Peabody," an hour lecture/discussion with a 50 panel historic exhibit covering its 6 decades which presents many positive messages. I also have three large historic anthologies: The National Folk Festival; The opera careers of Maria Marceno which cover grand opera from the beginning; and 200 letters from 98-to present. Perhaps a thousand items in all. I don't charge admission or sell a product and like your site it is more about education and promoting preservation. Currently I do about a presentation a week and would like to do more and in time hope to find a permanent location for his huge exhibit.

Thank you,

Ed Golterman,
Golterman Historics LLC.
314 909-7224

February 1, 2012
 


Missouri Theater
St. Louis,
MO


Missouri Theater at 634 N. Grand Avenue, St. Louis, MO
Photo courtesy web

The Missouri Theatre was one of the most popular theatres in St. Louis in the 1920's. Built in 1921, it was located at Grand and Lucas and housed inside the twelve story brick Missouri Theatre Building, but distinguished by a light stone front. It had a seating capacity of 3558 and was one of the largest theatres in the nation at that time. It was designed by the firm of DeRosa & Pereira for the Famous Players Missouri circuit, which was a subsidiary of the Famous Players Lasky circuit.1


Postcard of view from the stage of the Missouri Theater
courtesy eBay

Luxury abounded, rotundas with massive chairs, fireplaces in many rooms and three inch thick carpeting added to the already impressive decor. The interior featured arches and Corinthian columns. Curved architecture throughout the theatre gave the impression of softness in contrast to modern streamlined architecture.1


Grand Ave. with St. Louis, Missouri and American theater marquees - 1954
Photo courtesy Missouri History Museum

The Missouri Theatre was one of the first theatres in St. Louis to have air conditioning, which was a big deal then. It was called "the Pike's Peak Breeze" in it's advertising of the air conditioning. The theatre was later operated by Skouras Bros., RKO, and Fanchon & Marco which evolved into Arthur Enterprises. The Missouri was so successful that the Skouras Brothers went on to build a sister theatre only a block away, the St. Louis Theatre (now Powell Symphony Hall).1

The Missouri featured a chorus line of dancers known as the Missouri Rocket Girls. This troupe of precision dancers became well known throughout St. Louis. They we so successful that they toured the country, eventually settling at the famed Roxy Theatre in New York City.1


Elvis at the Missouri Theater - Oct. 1955
Photo courtesy FECC/Sheila

On October 21, 1955, Elvis, Scotty and Bill made their first appearances in St. Louis when they rejoined a tour with Roy Acuff and Kitty Wells for three days of performing at the Missouri Theater.  They had performed with them days earlier at the Circle theater in Cleveland and briefly left the tour for appearances at the Brooklyn High School and St. Michael's Hall to participate in Bill Randle's documentary.


Roy Acuff and the Smokey Mountain Boys in St. Louis - Oct. 1955
Photo John Hartford


Shot Jackson, Johnny & Jack with Benny Martin in St. Louis - Oct. 1955
Photo John Hartford

According to Elvis Day by Day, Elvis was scheduled to open the 2:00 p.m. show on Sunday, the 23rd, but arrived late, saying that he was searching for his wallet. As a result of his tardiness, he was not permitted to perform and, with the Colonel's approval, docked $125 pay.2


Scotty, Elvis and Bill at the Missouri Theatre in St. Louis - Oct. 1955
Photo John Hartford

The Missouri Theatre was last used in December, 1957, abandoned then razed for a parking lot on June 26, 1959.1

added November 11, 2009

October 20, 1955 advertisement from the St. Louis Dispatch is courtesy Trent Sindelar, Information Services at St. Louis Public Library.
John Hartford's pictures added Feb. 15, 2012 courtesy FECC/Aunt Delta.

1 excerpts from Missouri Theater by by Charles Van Bibber, JAlex, Paul Knittel courtesy Cinema Treasures
2 according to Peter Guralnick in Elvis Day By Day

 

All photos on this site (that we didn't borrow) unless otherwise indicated are the property of either Scotty Moore or James V. Roy and unauthorized use or reproduction is prohibited.

 
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