Alhambra Theatre

44 W. Washington Street,
Indianapolis, IN 46204

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Alhambra Theatre

The Alhambra building was built in 1913 on the site of the former Casino Theatre. This was the first theatre built in Indianapolis for movies only. It was the first movie house in the city to built with a balcony. It was built by the Dickson-Talbot chain. The facade of the theatre was Rockwood Pottery, with the interior painted in ebony and gold.

There were two organs used in the Alhambra, the first being a A.M.P. Moller and the second was a Smith-Geneva. After the theatre closed in 1921, the Smith Geneva organ was moved to the Cadle Tabernacle. The Alhambra Theatre was demolished in 1990.

Contributed by Chuck

Recent comments (view all 6 comments)

kencmcintyre on November 9, 2006 at 4:29 pm

On 5/28/17, the Alhambra was featuring Alice Brady in “Maternity”. The Indianapolis Star listed several other venues of the day, but some seem to be a mixture of vaudeville and films or vaudeville only, so it’s hard to say which would be an actual movie theater:

The Circle – “Shrine of the Silent Art"
Regent (Last Time – Dorothy Phillips in "The Flashlight”)
Park – Summer Vaudeville (perhaps no films at all)
BF Keiths – “Patriotic Photoplays, World News Weekly"
English’s – Universal News Weekly
Majestic – Burlesque

DonnieK on January 28, 2007 at 6:16 am

I have a pictue of my cousin from Shelbyville IN,
in front of the Alhambra theather in Indianapolis????????
early 1940s second floor has DR. Wilson Dentist sign
movie is You’ll Never Get Rich

anyone interested ?

DonnieK in sunny Florida

Lostnyc on May 27, 2008 at 8:42 pm

I recently bought this 14" wide plaster lion which came from a theater, probably in Indiana, if anyone has any recollection of seeing lions like this in a now demolished theater I’d sure like to hear about it for my historical records for this sculpture;

View link

kencmcintyre on June 25, 2009 at 5:06 pm

Here is an article from the Indianapolis Star, dated 10/10/15:

The most important transaction of the year in the local amusement field was completed yesterday when B.V. Barton and Charles M. Olson acquired the Alhambra Theater from Dickson & Talbot, the new owners taking possession immediately. The terms of the deal were not given out.

Barton and Olson are owners of the Lyric and Isis theaters on North Illinois Street and have been active in the motion picture and vaudeville business for several years. Barton established the second motion picture house opened in Indianapolis. The sale of the Alhambra marks the retirement from the amusement business of Dickson & Talbot. At one time they controlled and operated the English, the old Grand and the old Park (now the Lyceum) Theaters here, and they also owned and operated theaters in Dayton and Columbus, Ohio.

Dlckson & Talbot entered the motion picture field several years ago in conjunction with the late C.L. Sutherland. They built the Orpheum and Alhambra Theaters. Shortly after this they retired from the operation of their legitimate playhouses here and at Dayton and Columbus, letting them to the firm of Anderson & Ziegler. On the death of Mr. Sutherland they determined to retire from the amusement business.

The Alhambra is one of the most completely equipped motion picture theaters in the city. Mr. Barton said that some changes may be made in the policy of the house, and future plans include remodeling the front of the theater building. For the present, however, it will continue along the lines established by Dickson & Talbot.

AndrewBarrett on January 28, 2015 at 1:48 pm

According to “The Encyclopedia of the American Theatre Pipe Organ” by Mr. David Junchen, pg. 629, the “Alhambra Th.” in Indianapolis, Indiana, had a three-manual, 11-rank Seeburg-Smith (not Smith-Geneva as reported in Mr. Chuck’s main theatre write-up above) theatre pipe organ installed in 1920.

This organ had Spencer blower serial #10999, which was 5 horsepower and delivered wind at 10" static pressure.

This was apparently one of the few 3-manual Smith organs ever built, and also one of the few organs over 10 ranks in size that they built (the majority of Smith’s output appears to have been 2-manual organs of between 4 and 9 ranks). Thus, this organ must have been one of Seeburg-Smith’s big “prestige” organ installations.

Does anybody know what happened to the Seeburg-Smith organ after it was moved to the Cadle Tabernacle?

The Saturday, September 2, 1922 issue of “The Indianapolis News” (pg. 27) has an article about the “New $17,000 pipe organ” just installed in the Tabernacle and about to be dedicated, but (and it is hard to tell given the poor OCR transcription of this page, and the fact that I can’t see the actual page image since I’m not a newspapers dot com subscriber), it doesn’t seem like the article mentions the make of the organ at all.

Given that Smith was still in business at the time of the move, (although now known just as the Smith Organ Co, no longer Seeburg-Smith), and given that they were known as primarily a builder of theatre-type organs for performing popular music (most were installed in theatres; a few were installed in lodge halls, radio stations, and hotels; Smith built only a handful of actual church organs their entire existence), it is possible that Mr. Cadle didn’t want the public to learn that the “new” church organ was really a used theatre organ from the recently closed theatre! (I am not sure if the $17,000 figure was at all accurate, either!)

A Google search has not helped matters much, since I’ve only been able to find out about the history of the Cadle Tabernacle building itself and nothing about the organ.

Here are a couple of the most useful links about the building and its history:

Does anybody know what happened to the 3-manual, 11-rank Seeburg-Smith theatre pipe organ when the Cadle Tabernacle was razed / demolished in 1968?

Do it, or its parts, still exist today, and if so, where? Thanks a lot!

I have not yet checked the Möller section of Mr. Junchen’s book to see about an earlier Möller organ installation at this theatre, but I will do so when I have time.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on December 22, 2017 at 1:16 pm

The records of Hugh J. Baker & Company, fabricator of structural and reinforcing steel and concrete, indicate that the Alhambra Theatre was built in 1913.

This post from the Historic Indianapolis web site has, along with some pictures of the Apollo Theatre, a photo of the Alhambra’s building shortly before it and its neighbors were demolished in 1990.

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