Booker T. Washington Theatre

2248 Market Street,
St. Louis, MO 63103

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Additional Info

Architects: Jacob M. Hirschstein

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Booker Washington Theater Exterior

The Booker T. Washington Theatre opened in 1913 seating 506. It was an African-American theatre presenting vaudeville & movies. The theatre located just a block west of the busy Union Station often was filled to capacity with people waiting for their train departure times. Just a small theatre on the outskirts of downtown with no elaborate ornamentation.

In its day it opened at 10 in the morning and continued until well after midnight. During troop movement the theatre was always noted as being boisterous and noisy from the military men in the theatre waiting for their train. With the decline of rail transportation and the redevelopment of the area, the theatre closed in 1930, and was later demolished.

Contributed by Charles Van Bibber

Recent comments (view all 4 comments)

JAlex on May 27, 2005 at 10:46 pm

This the theatre where Josephine Baker made her stage debut in 1919.
Theatre operated from 1913 to 1930…operated by Blacks for Blacks.

Correct address was 23rd & Market (2248 Market Street).

JAlex on January 7, 2010 at 7:24 pm

In March 1913 it was announced that Charles Turpin has leased the site at the southeast corner of 23rd and Market for a theatre. He had been operating an airdome on the site for four years. The cost of the structure was to be $29,000 and the architect was J. M. Hirschstein.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on April 21, 2011 at 10:17 am

Architect Hirschstein’s first name was Jacob.

This house was called the Booker T. Washington Theatre. I’ve been unable to find an exterior photo, but here’s a picture of the auditorium, packed to the walls for a midnight show in 1918.

localarchivstSTL on September 3, 2017 at 4:10 am

Hi guys, I’m a local archivist and I’ve done a lot of work in the Mill Creek neighborhood. I just uploaded an exterior drawing of the theater I found in one issue and made note that there exists a real-photo postcard of the theater at a local black history museum. In the future I’ll add more to this specific entry as I’ve written quite extensively (for my research) on this particular theater. If you check out the (plug) St. Louis Argus newspaper archive I put together on the Internet Archive (1915-1925) you can find in each issue (usually the last page) a theater/arts page. The Booker theater seems to hold a very high position in the minds of the paper editors as they usually dedicate an entire column to the current acts/shows being exhibited there—versus no more than a brief note for the other theaters.

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