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Palace Theatre

Calgary

Other Names:
Allens' Palace Theatre
Allens' Theatre

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place
The Palace Theatre is a four-storey building with a facade of the Edwardian Classical style, located on four city lots and fronting the south side of Stephen Avenue Mall in Calgary.

Heritage Value
The Palace Theatre is significant as an extremely rare example of the opulent style of silent movie theatres known as "movie palaces" that were built by a Canadian-owned theatre company. It was also the site of pioneering radio broadcasts and is an important part of Calgary's historic Stephen Avenue Mall.

Until its sale to Famous Players in 1923, the Allen Brothers were the largest independent theatre chain in Canada. The lavish design of movie palaces was an attempt to portray films as "respectable entertainment," while the Palace's interior reflects the diverse nature of movie-going in the silent era, with space for the screening, an orchestra, and vaudeville acts.

The first public exhibition of radio in Calgary took place at the Palace Theatre in 1922, when an audience listened to a performance by three members of the Palace orchestra broadcast by the Calgary Herald's radio station (later CFAC). Between 1925 and 1927 William Aberhart broadcast his "Back to the Bible" hours from the stage. Until the Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium opened in 1956, the Palace Theatre was Calgary's most important venue for theatre and concert performances.

The Palace Theatre was designed by C. Howard Crane, an American architect who designed the Allens' theatres and others in the American Midwest. It is a prominent aspect of Stephen Avenue Mall, Alberta's finest contiguous collection of commercial buildings of the 1885-1930 time period, and a rare example of a performing arts structure from the era of settlement and urban expansion. The Palace Theatre was designated a national historic site in 1996.

Source: Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch (File: Des. 1094)


Character-Defining Elements
The character-defining elements of the Palace Theatre include such features of the Edwardian Classical style as:
- red-brick facade separated into seven bays by fluted pilasters topped with Corinthian capitals on sandstone sill;
- two outside bays slightly recessed;
- entablature topped with a decorated blind roundheaded arch and brick parapet;
- arched windows and windows in two outer bays topped with a triangular pediment;
- nine-over-nine double-sash windows in five central bays with six-pane sidelights;
- large carved stone panels;
- decorative iron balconies around second-floor windows;
- decorative plaster ceiling, columns, cornices, and friezes;
- Art Deco iron motifs such as elaborate grill work on either side of stage;
- curved balcony with sloped floor;
- twin marble staircases at either end of the foyer;
- mezzanine level;
- three-sided marquee.


Location



Street Address: 219 - 8 Avenue SW
Community: Calgary
Boundaries: Plan A, Block 64, Lots 11 to 14
Contributing Resources: Buildings: 1

ATS Legal Description:
Mer Rge Twp Sec LSD
5
1
24
15
12 (ptn.)

PBL Legal Description (Cadastral Reference):
Plan Block Lot Parcel
A
A
A
A
64
64
64
64
14
13
12
11





Latitude/Longitude:
Latitude Longitude CDT Datum Type
51.045375 -114.066570 GPS NAD 83

UTM Reference:
Northing Easting Zone CDT Datum Type

Recognition

Recognition Authority: Province of Alberta
Designation Status: Provincial Historic Resource
Date of Designation: 1996/05/30

Historical Information

Built: 1921/01/01 To 1921/01/01
Significant Date(s) N/A
Theme(s) Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life : Architecture and Design
Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life : Sports and Leisure
Historic Function(s): Leisure : Auditorium, Cinema or Nightclub
Current Function(s): Commerce / Commercial Services : Office or Office Building
Architect: C. Howard Crane
Builder:
Context: HERITAGE SIGNIFICANCE

Constructed in 1921 toward the end of the silent picture era, the Palace Theatre is an excellent example of the 'Movie Palace' style of architecture which was embodied in large, opulent, highly decorated theatres designed to accommodate both vaudeville and moving pictures. Built by the Allen family, including brothers Jules and Jay and their father Barney, the Palace Theatre played an important role in the early development of radio in Western Canada. The first public broadcast in Calgary took place at the Palace in 1922, and in 1925 William Aberhart began to broadcast his 'Back to the Bible' hours from the stage at the Palace. Over the years a succession of important artists appeared on the Palace stage, including Nelson Eddy and Charles Laughton. Until the Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium opened in 1956, the Palace Theatre was Calgary's most important venue for theatre and concert performances of all types.

The structure was designed by C. Howard Crane from Windsor, Ontario, the designer of most of the Allens' theatres. His work is known for its adaptation of classically inspired Beaux Arts concepts, and his style of plaster decoration followed the eighteenth century Adams brothers in England. The Palace is the only surviving theatre of its size and grandeur from this era remaining in Alberta and its exterior is an imposing brick facade which plays a primary role in maintaining the historical continuity of this portion of the Stephen Avenue mall.

Additional Information

Object Number: 4665-0546
Designation File: DES 1094
Related Listing(s):
Heritage Survey File: HS 62592
Website Link:
Data Source: Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch, Old St. Stephen's College, 8820 - 112 Street, Edmonton, AB T6G 2P8 (File: Des. 1094)
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