By Reg Chapman

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A historic venue in St. Paul is going back to its musical roots.

The Palace Theatre opened as a vaudeville house in 1916. It closed in 1977, opening only for a short stint in the 80s to host “A Prairie Home Companion.”

Now, for the first time in 40 years, it will open to music fans.

The Palace Theatre hopes to bring life back to a once-vibrant downtown neighborhood.

The theater was the largest of its kind in downtown St. Paul, where people would come to acts like Milton Berle and the Marx Brothers.

One thing that never changed over the years was its grandiose look.

“The mayor actually was fundamental in saving this theatre 20 years ago when he was on city council,” said Joe Spencer, St. Paul’s director of arts and culture.

Spencer says the push to breathe new life into the heart of downtown St. Paul was the force behind restoring this gem.

“We’re really focused on bringing young audiences into downtown St. Paul and by focusing on live music by focusing on rock and roll and hip hop, punk rock,” Spencer said. “We thought that was a great strategy to get people in St. Paul.”

Spencer says architects captured the bombed-out quality of the theater.

“We call it ‘arrested deterioration,'” Spencer said. “There is a beauty to the age and the texture that comes with a building being vacant for 40 years and we really wanted to capture.”

The seated balcony features original seats from 1916 that have been refurbished.

Seats from the main floor have been ripped out to make way for standing general admission with four separate tiers flowing down to the stage.

First Avenue General Manager Nate Kranz says this venue will bring in superstars and big crowds, something many in this part of downtown St. Paul are craving.

“We’re able to bring in bigger groups that don’t fit at First Avenue,” Kranz said. “I can’t explain to you how welcoming everybody has been, from the people at the St. Paul Hotel. They are all so excited to have something going on.”

The Palace opens Friday night with the group Atmosphere, and The Jayhawks will rock the stage Saturday night.

First Avenue believes this new venue will make the Twin Cities a destination for groups in all musical genres.


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