Vacant theater in Cleveland OH

LaSalle Theater Building, Cleveland Ohio
Date added: December 21, 2022 Categories: Ohio Theater Neoclassical
Projector Room (2010)

International Savings and Loan Company built the commercial mixed-use building in 1927. Cleveland architect Nicola Petti designed the building. International Savings and Loan Co. recognized the growth of the North Collinwood area spurring the need for commercial and residential development. The LaSalle Theater Building has since been a community anchor recognized for its architectural prominence and commercial contribution.

A 1928 Plain Dealer article announcing the theater building opening refers to the exterior architecture style as English and the interior details as Spanish. However, it is referred to today as Neo-Classical Revival style. The style is common among commercial and public buildings in the early 20th century due to the inspiration generated from the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition held in Chicago. It is exemplified on the LaSalle by the overall symmetry of the primary facade, the prominent central block with projecting pediment, use of pilasters and balanced windows, conveying a more subdued, understated classicism often seen in buildings of the 1920s. Architectural details such as the exterior entablature, string courses, decorative entrances and the interior segmented ceiling, elaborate cornice, and classical motif molding contribute to the Neo-Classical Revival design exemplifying the LaSalle to be a prime example of the most elaborate commercial building on the street.

International Savings and Loan Company hired architect Nicola Petti (1880-1949) to design the LaSalle. Petti was born in Italy and came to America as a child. He worked both in a carpenter shop and an architect's office prior to opening his own office. He is attributed to the construction of twenty-five residential and commercial buildings and eleven theaters in Ohio, the majority of them in Cleveland. Of the eleven theaters, all built in the period of 1917 - 1927, eight have been demolished. The remaining three are the Cedar-Lee Theater in Cleveland Heights, the Variety Store Building and Theater on the west side of Cleveland and the LaSalle Theater Building.

The Cedar-Lee Theater, 1925, is located at the intersection of Cedar Road and Lee Road in Cleveland Heights. The mixed-use building is constructed of red brick in vernacular two-part commercial block style with minimal stone detail. Today, it is an active six-screen theater showing both independent and mainstream movies. Currently, commercial storefronts are only to the south of the theater at street level, but historical photos show commercial signage to the north and south of the theater at street level and at the second level to the south. The northern street-level storefronts and second-story commercial spaces to the south are now part of the theater. The storefronts to the north are now large double-light replacement windows used to display movie posters. Two of the storefronts have been filled in with brick. The Cedar-Lee is nondescript in comparison to the LaSalle in regards to architectural style and detail and has been altered from the original single-screen design.

The Variety Store Building, 1927, is located at W. 118th and Lorain Road in Cleveland, Ohio. It is a large two-story yellow brick corner two-part commercial block with street-level storefronts and twelve second-story residential apartments. The theater entrance is on Lorain Road in vault style, with a large window above the marquee. Minimal architectural details include stone string courses to emphasize the two-part commercial block. The storefronts are similar to the LaSalle with ribbon transoms, large single lights and recessed doorways. Even though the Variety has similar design characteristics, the Indiana limestone material and definite Neo-Classical Revival design sets the LaSalle apart from the Variety.

E. 185th Street evolved from country Gardner Road providing access to the ten private properties, ranging from five to sixty acres, to the busy main street it is today. It is lined with one and two story commercial structures to meet the needs of the area residents. However, it took time to become a commercial hub and the LaSalle was at the forefront of the progress. International Savings and Loan Company purchased sub lots 158-161 fronting E. 185th Street and part of sub lot 157 fronting Kildeer Avenue in the Berwick Subdivision in 1927 during the time period when the large neighborhood in Cleveland, known as North Collinwood, experienced its most rapid growth and expansion.

At the turn of the 20th century, North Collinwood, then part of Collamer Village, was gaining quite a reputation as a major railroad yard in the Cleveland area. It was a main switching point for the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern rail lines and boasted 120 miles of track. The industrial and retail business opportunities and manual labor opportunities "provided basis for the area's early growth," attracting Italian, Irish and Slovenian populations. Other major employers during the 1920s - 1950s were local industrial giants such as Lincoln Electric Company, a production facility of General Electric Company and TRW, Inc. The village was annexed by the City of Cleveland in 1910 with the center of the neighborhood at E. 152nd and St, Clair Avenue. Even though E. 185th Street was on the outskirts of the Collinwood neighborhood the influx of permanent residents, which continued through the mid-twentieth century, required residential and commercial development across the entire area.

According to the 1898 Flynn Atlas, the first planned residential areas along E. 185th Street were the Berwick Subdivision and Extension, an eight-and-a-half block subdivision on the east side of 185" where the LaSalle was constructed, Rose Park a one block subdivision immediately to the west of the LaSalle, and Beachland, a two and a half block subdivision to the northwest on E 185th. These developing neighborhoods called for additional local commercial activity. The Flynn Atlas, 1914 Hopkins Plat Map and Sanborn Insurance Maps from 1926 - 1941 indicate only a handful of two-story dwellings along E. 185th Street, some of which could have been used for commercial activity or private residents or both. As more residents located to the area, developers and builders recognized the need for more commercial space, spurring the construction of the LaSalle Theater Building.

1936 edits to the Sanborn maps show two one-story commercial brick buildings in the immediate vicinity of the LaSalle at the time of construction. The first, a vernacular brick structure, is the southern neighbor with the 60' - 0" of butted wall along the southern lot line. The map indicates this building as a dry cleaner. Today it is a vacant bar. The second, a one-story vernacular brick structure, is located across Kildeer Ave. on the northeast corner of E. 185th Street and Kildeer Ave. Immediately west of the LaSalle on E. 185th Street was an isolated filling station with no other structures nearby. A 1960s single-story commercial strip building is located there today. Other commercial buildings along E. 185th Street in 1927 were sporadically located to the north and south. These buildings included a few filling stations, a one-story mixed-use building containing four storefronts and a bowling alley located a few blocks to the northwest fronting the Beachland subdivision, a one-story brick mixed-use building with three storefronts and a branch of the United States Post Office located to the southeast, and, across the street from that, a two-story two-part commercial block red brick building in restrained colonial revival style. At the time of construction, the two and a half story Neo-Classical Revival Indiana Limestone facade distinguishes the commercial LaSalle Theater Building from the rest of the one to two-story brick commercial buildings on E. 185th Street in size, architectural style and use of materials.

The LaSalle Theater Building is an example of one of the remaining neighborhood mixed-use commercial buildings built throughout the United States during the 1910s and 1920s. The growth of neighborhood theaters in Cleveland is a reliable reflection of national trends as the major form of entertainment. The 1917 City of Cleveland Directory confirms 32 theaters in Cleveland. By 1927, ten years later, the Directories show 120 theaters in Cleveland. Today, it is one of only a few extant theaters, in favorable condition from this era in Cleveland, in addition to retaining its original single-screen design.

A survey of the Cleveland Directories also confirms commercial businesses, which remained constant from the building's opening until the 2000s and include a real estate company, a dress shop, and a beauty salon. Where these types of retail were constant, the names of the shops and listed owners changed multiple times over the decades. For instance, the beauty shop that opened with the building, Mrs. Anne Elsner Beauty Shop became Mrs. Frances Teiber Beauty Shop in 1939, Mrs. Frances Polocar/Potocar Beauty Shop in 1940 (spelled both ways in the Directory and assuming Frances got married), changing owner names two more times before finally becoming Your Beauty Salon in 1953 and remaining as such. The Directories also list full residential occupancy until the late 1970s, with fluctuating occupancy until 2008.

The theater, originally built for vaudeville shows and silent movies, opened with "up-to-date heating, lighting and ventilating systems" and was owned and managed by Paul Gusdanovic, a prominent Cleveland movie house owner. It was converted to motion pictures with sound once the technology was accessible. The theater remained active showing movies until 1991 when the theater closed due to low attendance. In 1995, a local car dealership owner purchased the building, made repairs to the theater interior, retaining original architectural details, and repurposed the theater auditorium for an antique car museum. The museum closed after a short run and the theater has been vacant ever since.

The building passed through two owners since 2000 and both foreclosed on the property, with the second foreclosure resulting in the vacancy of the entire building in 2008. In May 2008, the Cleveland Landmarks Commission began review for landmarks designation. The bank-owner rejected the proposal and Ward 11 Councilman Polensek requested an emergency ordinance in order to secure the building's fate from demolition. The LaSalle Theater Building was designated a Cleveland Landmark in October 2008. The current owner, Northeast Shores Development Corporation, purchased the building in September 2009 and has begun making repairs to stabilize the building and prepare for complete rehabilitation. Their vision is to return the building to mixed-use by utilizing its prominence as an anchor for community revitalization.

Building Description

The LaSalle Theater Building is located on the corner of E. 185th Street and Kildeer Avenue in the E. 185th Street business district of Cleveland, Ohio. The mixed-use building is two and a half stories with four commercial storefronts, five second-floor apartments, third-floor utility space and a motion picture theater. It is constructed of steel, masonry and wood and has a rectangular plan fronting 100 feet along E. 185th and 185' - 7" along Kildeer Avenue. The roof has three distinct sections that are a combination of gabled and flat. The primary (west) facade, facing East 185th Street, is faced with Indiana limestone in restrained Neo-Classical Revival style with a projecting temple front and flanking secondary wings. The theater entrance is recessed at center with the original canopy marquee. Two storefronts make up the north wing. Two storefronts and the main apartment entrance make up the south wing. The northernmost store entrance and the southernmost apartment entrance have detailed limestone doorways. The west one-third of the north facade, which overlooks Kildeer Avenue, is also faced with Indiana limestone. The remaining two-thirds are yellow brick. The rear (east) facade and the south facade are red brick. The interior of the theater is elaborately decorated with original classical-motif plaster detailing on the ceiling and walls, which is in good condition. The north corner commercial space is notable because it was once the original bank. The second-floor apartment spaces are void of elaborate decoration but retain the original circulation patterns, wood trim, floors, kitchen cabinetry, in-wall ironing board, and metal light fixtures.

The roof materials are asphalt, wood and tar. The western section, which covers the apartments, is gabled at the center and flat on either side with parapets. The asphalt gabled center covers the third-floor attic. The north and south walls are made of yellow brick. The flat tar roof sections on either side of the gable cover the hallway to the apartments and the apartments. There are two skylights, one on either side of the gabled section to provide natural light in the hallway. There is a central light well on the south side providing natural light to the southern two apartments. The north light well is off-center to the south and provides natural light to the two middle apartments. The middle section of tar roof is the projection room and is flat. It is contained by the red brick parapets of the western section and the curved red brick auditorium wall of the eastern section. The eastern roof section is the theater auditorium and is gabled. Roof repairs occurred in 2010 in order to provide stabilization and stop water leaking into the interior. Like materials were used in the repairs.

The west elevation, fronting E. 185th Street, is the primary facade and, like most commercial buildings of this era, provides the building's distinctive characteristics. It is a combination of two-part commercial block emphasized by string courses to segregate the commercial space from the residential space and central block with wings identified by the projecting center unit and flanking secondary units. The entire elevation is faced in the original Indiana limestone, a deluxe building material.

The center unit is topped by a raked pediment with a raised circle at the center. The entablature is restrained with simple circle-on-square details for the triglyphs and plain metopes. The architrave is also plain. There are six square pilasters evenly spaced across the center unit. The abacus and base are rectangular. Plain architectural details, as described, provide focus on the volume of the detail versus intricacy, which is characteristic of Neo-Classical Revival style. In between each pilaster, just below the architrave, is one original wood framed casement window with leaded glass in a star-shaped pattern. The middle window is a plain casement window, which would have been hidden by the vertical marquee. All windows are intact, but the leaded windows need repairs to prevent further bowing.

Below the leaded windows is an inset rectangle detail with squared corners. Below this detail is a double-hung single-pane vinyl window. These windows are replacement windows, but have not altered the original opening. The original windows were wood 6/1. The original canopy marquee is below the double-hung windows. It runs the width of the central block and extends the width of the sidewalk. It is red with white lettering and detailing. The lettering and detailing are highlighted with neon lighting or a cache of small incandescent bulbs. The main side facing E. 185th reads "LA SALLE" and is framed with scrolling details. The sides are taller and plainer than the front. The lettering display is white, bordered by a red background with white neon lighting. The underside of the marquee is vinyl, a renovation completed at an unknown date, in three equal sections with nine hexagonal globe lights. The marquee was altered after 1948 to accommodate four lines of text instead of three, adding the western quarter-circle detail. In 1995, restorations were made to the marquee to return it to original condition. The original vertical section of the two-part marquee was blown off in a windstorm in 1994, damaged beyond repair and has not been replaced. The metal anchors are still present on the facade.

The theater's main entrance is recessed from the primary facade wall. The ceiling is vinyl paneling and the walls are covered in ceramic pink and burgundy tiles, alterations completed at an unknown date. The corners of the entrance have metal-framed coming-attraction signs. The main entrance doors leading to the theater lobby are four sets of double swing doors with single lights. They are replacement doors, but have not changed the overall openings. The floor of the entrance is the original terrazzo floor. The original free-standing ticket booth is renovated in the same ceramic pink tile as the walls. The only historic photograph uncovered is from 1948. The underside of the marquee and entrance are too dark to conclude any identification of original materials.

The north and south wings are symmetrical on the second floor. Below the parapet roof line is the second-story wave ornament string course. Below the string course is three sets of paired double-hung single-pane windows. These windows are in line with the double-hung windows of the central block and are also replacement windows. The original window openings have not been altered. Below the double-hung windows is a first-story panel ornament string course. This string course meets the bottom of the pilaster base and top corner of the marquee connecting the three elements together visually.

The north wing has two street-level storefronts. There are metal anchors and weather markings in the limestone above the storefronts indicating there were once awnings or signage. The corner storefront is the most prominent and has three bays. The first and third bays have the original wood-framed single-light transom; original wood-framed large single-light window and marble base. The center bay is the slightly recessed entry with a semicircle arch and pilaster limestone doorway. The semicircle arch is in lieu of a traditional pediment. There is a scrolling cresting at the crown. There are dual acroterion. The triglyph mimics the triglyph of the center unit. The pilasters of the door frame are fluted. The tympanum contains an air conditioner. The air conditioner replaced an ornamental circle. The circle is supported by scrolling ornamentation. Below the air conditioner is a recessed rectangle with the address plate. The recessed entry is bay-shaped with two original side wood framed single-light windows and centered wood door with a metal screen door, which are not original. The floor of the entry is terrazzo.

The second storefront has three bays and a recessed entry, but is not elaborately ornamented. The transom is the original wood framed ribbon of five rectangle single lights and runs along the entire storefront The end windows open for ventilation. The first and second bays are original wood-framed large single-light windows. There are three covered basement windows at the base. The third bay is the recessed entry with one original wood-framed large single-light window on the north side and a centered door.

The south wing has two mirrored storefronts, similar to the second storefront of the north unit, and the main entrance for the apartments. The original wood-framed ribbon transom runs across both storefronts Only two of the transom lights are vented. Each storefront has three original wood-framed single light bays. The recessed doorway is shared between both spaces.

The main entrance to the apartments is slightly recessed and has a series of two doors. The facade is faced in solid limestone and has a marble base. There is a limestone hood with symmetrical scrolling detail on top and scrolling bracket supports. The exterior door has a single rectangle transom and wood door with a large single light. The interior door is wood with a large single light. The foyer and stairs are terrazzo with metal framing.

The north facade fronts Kildeer Avenue and is mostly two stories. The roof line is broken due to a one-story corner janitor's living quarters and the aforementioned differing roof styles. The eastern two-thirds of the north facade is the side gable of the theater auditorium and faced in yellow brick in running bond pattern. Two string courses are created by turning the brick vertical in a soldier course. The second-story stringcourse is in line with the wave ornament stringcourse from the west facade. Protruding from the wall are five evenly-spaced buttresses for the steel trusses. There are three double-hung windows at the second story. In between the first and second buttresses from the east is an emergency exit. A roll door was installed ca. 1995 in between the fourth and fifth buttresses in order to accommodate the continued use of the theater as an antique automobile museum. Next to the roll door is an original recessed entry that leads to an emergency exit for the theater and the secondary stairs for the apartments.

The remaining one-third of the north facade is faced in limestone. The roof line is the parapet from the northwest portion of the flat roof. The string courses from the primary facade are carried over. There are four double-hung single-light vinyl windows on the second story. They are replacements from an unknown date, but have not changed the overall opening. The first story has five bays. The first is a secondary entrance to the corner storefront. East of the door is a small window. The remaining four bays consist of an original wood-framed ribbon transom and a large single-light window. The fourth single-light window is larger.

The east facade borders the rear property line. It is faced in red brick, gable-ended and two and a half stories. A large metal louver is at the center of the gable for the ventilation system. There are two secondary one-story roof lines. The southern one-story section is the theater dressing rooms. The northern one-story section is the janitor's living quarters.

The south facade is two stories and faced in red brick. The western sixty feet is built on the property line and the first story is hidden by the neighboring building. The remaining 110 feet are setback eight feet from the southern property line. This inset portion is the theater auditorium. Protruding from the wall are five evenly-spaced buttresses for the steel trusses. There are three sets of original emergency exit doors. The southern corner is one story where the theater dressing rooms are located. There are two replacement glass block windows.

The theater lobby has a drop ceiling with twenty globe lights. Removal of ceiling tiles exposes original dentil crown molding and the plaster ceiling with raised ornamental detail. The east wall has four sets of double swing, flush, red fabric-covered doors with kick plates, which lead to the theater foyer. The north and south walls are covered in wood paneling. There are three wood-framed mirrors on each wall centered off of the heating vents near the main entrance. The south wall has a metal framed posting board above the heater vent. Removal of a section of the wall paneling reveals the original plaster wall with decorative alternating beige and red-hued stripes. The original terrazzo floor is diamond-patterned in alternating beige/gray and red/black colors with a red/black color perimeter.

The theater foyer is separated from the auditorium by three segments of plain knee wall with wood caps. The spaces between the segments correspond to the original aisles. The support columns are square with Corinthian caps and painted gold scrolling details. The ceiling is plaster with segmental detailing, three symmetrical chandelier medallions highlighted with elongated scrolling details painted gold, and white egg and dart and dentil molding. The flooring is replacement red low pile carpet. The carpet is noted in a 1928 article as being orange and black and most likely replaced due to gradual traffic wear.

Immediately upon entering the foyer to the south is an added code required ADA bathroom, which used to be the refreshment counter space. The original counter opening was enclosed, but remains as a recessed cove. Neighboring stairs lead down to the men's restroom. It is divided into a lounge and the lavatory. The ceiling is plaster and the walls are white ceramic tile. Removal of a section of tile reveals original plaster wall with paint detailing. The floor is terrazzo.

Next to the men's restroom is a staircase leading up to the ladies restroom. It is divided into a lounge and the lavatory. The wall materials are plaster and pink ceramic tile added at an unknown date. The floor is terrazzo.

Immediately upon entering the foyer to the north is an apse with scallop detailing. The southwest and northwest corners of the foyer have an identical apse. Next to the north apse is a steep metal stairway leading to a storage room, projection room and mechanical room. An emergency exit door is at the end of the north foyer.

The theater auditorium is approximately 7,000 square feet and has a trapezoidal plan narrowing to the proscenium to the east. The view of the stage and screen is unobstructed. The ceiling is symmetrical with elaborate plaster ornamentation includes rosettes, leaf scrolling, bay leaf and tie garland, and bead and reel. The rear (west) two-thirds of the ceiling are segmented in nine sections. The center three sections are rectangular with centered gold medallions for fans and gold painted elongated scrolling details. The side six segments are square with centered circle medallions for fans. The overall shape of the front (east) one-third section is a trapezoid. At the center are two raised concentric circles. The inner circle is larger has a centered medallion for a fan with a radiating umbrella design.

The cornice is detailed in bay leaf and tie, acanthus leaf, reed and tie, and rosette ornamentation. The upper half of the west, north and south walls are covered in sections of pleated fabric, which alternate salmon and red colors, a renovation from an unknown date. The original curtains are noted in a 1928 news article as violet and tangerine velour. Application of fabric on the walls helped to produce high-quality acoustics. At center on the rear (west) wall are the projector and light openings. Below the fabric on the west wall is a wide band of trim, with large alternating gold painted rosettes and tulip details between small white acanthus leaf molding at the top and small rosettes set in a diamond pattern molding at the bottom. The west knee wall sections have recessed panels painted blue, most likely an alteration.

A wide string course below the fabric on the south and north walls is broken by three evenly spaced wall lights. The walls are plain white below. On the north wall, located in between the first two wall lights is the roll door with car ramps. Careful placement has not interrupted the original interior design. The exterior metal door is enclosed with a wooden paneled door with square wood framing. The lintel is supported with acanthus leaf-like brackets. Both north and south walls, where they narrow to the east, have an elevated inset box seat with four evenly spaced columns. The walls of the box seats are in poor condition. The columns have bay and acanthus leaf caps. The column shaft has a brocade pattern. On either side of the box seats is a set of stairs leading up to an emergency exit. The emergency exit on the south wall also leads to two dressing rooms and the backstage entrance.

The proscenium takes up the entire front (east) of the auditorium and is made of layered ornamental moldings including rosettes, acanthus leaves, fluting, bay leaf and tie, and bead and reel. The center molding is leaf and rose scrolling in gold paint. Centered is a cartouche. The single screen is set back from the proscenium opening. Curtains flank either side of the screen. The stage floor is low pile red carpet. Behind the screen is a brick wall. Stage left is the original house lighting controls and stairs to below the stage and a storage room.

The auditorium floor is concrete painted gray with red low pile carpet in the original aisles. The seats were removed in 1995 to accommodate the continued use of the theater as an antique automobile museum. A 30' x 5' section in front of the proscenium has been filled in with concrete. This space is presumably where the Wurlitzer organ was located.

The north corner store interior has notable interior ornamentation. The ceiling is segmented, painted white with cornice detailing. Two tracks of fluorescent lighting are centered and suspended from the ceiling, additions from an unknown date. The walls are painted light pink and there is a mural of Eastern-European landscape. There are seven cubicles created from knee walls. On the rear (east) wall is the original safe metal outer door. The remaining storefront interiors are painted white with no ornamentation. They have drop ceilings, plain walls and carpet.

The basement is located under the storefronts only. Each storefront has access to the basement at the rear of the store. Exterior access to the basement is from the north wall off of Kildeer Avenue at the recessed entryway. The basement shares a common hallway along the east wall and is segmented into multiple rooms with each storefront having at least one. The ceiling of the room under the theater entrance and lobby reveals poured-in-place concrete beams to help support the terrazzo floor.

The residential common hallway has plaster ceiling and walls painted white. There are two skylights in the ceiling providing natural light. Behind the east wall is the brick wall of the theater projection room. The floor is terrazzo. The north end of the hall has the secondary terrazzo staircase leading to Kildeer Avenue. Each apartment has two entrances. In addition to the description in the Summary, the flooring is a mix of wood, carpet, and linoleum tile. The bathrooms have square tiled floors and subway-tiled walls.

After the second apartment is a wood staircase leading up to the third-floor utility space. The wood rafters are exposed and the walls are brick. The floor is also wood. The west wall has the five casement windows. The east wall has four double-hung single-light windows. There is a door opening to provide access to the roof. Below the windows are two concrete utility sinks. This space was historically used as a laundry room and for storage.