Photo taken by Charlie Goering of the Paramount Theater in Downtown St. Cloud, Minnesota
Sometimes people ask me why I like architecture so much. Honestly, I don’t know the answer. It’s some kind of weird obsession that started before I can remember. One of my first memorable interactions with architecture was with the Paramount Theater in St. Cloud, Minnesota. The Paramount marque stands out among the buildings on West Saint Germain Street in downtown St. Cloud. Something about that building makes me feel like I’m home.
My mom and I went to Storia Ballet’s performance of The Nutcracker at the Paramount this month and I was reminded of how much I love that building.
The Paramount opened as the Sherman Theater in 1921. Local papers boasted the new theater to be “The Pride of the Granite City”, “St. Cloud’s Largest and Finest Playhouse” and “The Picture Palace”. Crowds lined the streets on December 24th, 1921 to purchase their fifty cent ticket to the silent film Way Down East by D.W. Griffith. Movie-goers would enjoy the film accompanied by a live orchestra. The theater was named after the Minneapolis motion picture executive Harry A. Sherman and was designed by local Architect Leo Schaeffer.
In the late 20’s talking motion pictures would gain popularity and an up and coming production firm, Paramount Pictures, began purchasing theaters across the nation to showcase their movies. The Sherman Theater was purchased in 1928 and underwent major renovations. As did many of the other existing Paramount Theaters around the country St. Cloud’s theater would receive an Art Deco face lift along with a brand new flashy marque.
The theater would enjoy nearly three decades of active use but in the late 1960’s the building began to deteriorate. Compounded by a fire in 1985 St. Cloud’s finest playhouse had lost its luster. It would take a grass roots effort of neighborhood advocates to fundraise the capitol needed to restore the theater. Finally in 1998 the Paramount would celebrate a Grand Reopening to commemorate the completion of the restoration. The new complex includes a Visual Arts Center in the basement as well as a Art Gallery that features local artists.
During the restoration two beautiful chandeliers were lost and just recently found in an Opera House in Staples, Minnesota.
Minnesota is packed full of fabulous theaters. In fact, the Twin Cities have more theaters per capita in the nation second only to New York City. Although there are many larger and more extravagant theaters than St. Cloud’s Paramount, it will always be my favorite.
Thanks for stopping by!