Kenosha Theatre

Balcony level of the Kenosha Theatre
View of the Kenosha Theatre from the balcony.

The Kenosha Theatre opened on September 1st, 1927. It was designed by Larry P. Larson, an architect known for mid-western theaters and financed by United Studios of Chicago.  The project was commissioned by Carl Laemmle, a Wisconsin native and one of the founders of Universal Studios.

The proscenium arch of the Kenosha Theatre

The 2,300 seat theater was built to resemble the Alcazar castle in Spain. Like many of its contemporaries the ceiling was covered with lights that were meant to look like stars. The layout of the “stars” was designed with data from the department of astronomy at the University of Wisconsin. Many Hollywood stars performed live at the Kenosha, including Frank SinatraBing CrosbyNat King Cole and Lawrence Welk.

The Kenosha closed in 1963, 36 years after it opened. It was later used as a warehouse and a flea market before being closed permanently. Due to its years of neglect, the roof leaked badly and much of the interior was damaged by the water exposure.

Some of the fallen plaster molding is being stored in the lobby area.

In 1983, the theater was purchased by Kenosha Theatre Development. The group repaired the storefronts and the apartments attached to the building,  to help generate funds towards restoration of the theater.  In the mid 2000s a new roof was installed — which had the unfortunate effect of destroying most of the “star”-lit ceiling — but it was necessary to prevent further water damage. More information on the restoration can be found at The Kenosha Theatre Restoration Project.

Stairway to the balcony level of the theater.
A column with some of the original paint remaining


6 thoughts on “Kenosha Theatre

  1. It’s just a total shame that we as Americans let this happen to our Historical Buildings.
    I am old enough to remember when going to a show on a date was a dress-up experience.
    These buildings were beautiful and being all dressed up in a suit and a tie, the girl in a dress and heels made it a memorable experince.The final curtain is a sad, sad comment on our society.

  2. Putting on a tie to go out on a date? Wow. That’s amazing. I guess we chalk that up to one more formal tradition thrown aside by the Baby Boom Generation. People don’t even wear a tie to church anymore.

  3. A lot of the decorative plaster work in the Kenosha Theater is similar to what was installed in the Venetian Theater in Racine. My dad and I removed a good portion of it AS the Venetian was being torn down in 1976. Over the next 40yrs it was installed in the 150 seat theater which was built in a 20′ deep basement beneath his home and houses the 5/28 Wurlitzer that was installed in the Michigan Theater, Detroit in 1926.

      1. Have you ever seen it? If not, I am the administrator for a FB group entitled: Wurlitzer Opus #1351 Michigan Theater, Detroit. I could add you as a member if you like. This group has pictures of the completed basement theater that contains restored plaster work from the Venetian Theater as well as unique ‘junque’ from about 25 different movie palaces that were demolished or closed throughout the U.S. Items that have been rescued include the 5/28 Wurlitzer from the Michigan Theater which is the main attraction.🙂

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