Pantheon Theatre – Vincennes, Indiana

View of the auditorium from the balcony.
The Pantheon Theatre in Vincennes, Indiana opened on May 15, 1921. John Bayard, a local architect designed the theater for owners Louis A. Wilkerson and A.M. Lyons. It cost $225,000 to build, or roughly $3.2 million when adjusted for inflation. The 1,500 seat theater had a Typhoon air cooling and ventilating system, a precursor to air conditioning, which was powered by three very large fans in the ceiling. The opening of the theater was originally supposed to take place on March 15, 1921, but it was delayed two months due to some plaster falling from the underside of the balcony.

View of the auditorium from the stage.
In 1923, Wilkerson-Lyons Enterprises sold the Pantheon Theatre to the Consolidated Realty and Theatres Company (CRTC), which owned and operated theaters in several cities in Indiana, for $225,000. However, CRTC could not afford to pay, and it reverted back to the original owners two months after it was sold. Red Skelton, an American entertainer and Vincennes native who performed at the Pantheon in his youth later unsuccessfully tried to purchase the theater. The Marx Brothers, Spike Jones and Duke Ellington, Will Rogers, Roy Rogers, Hank Williams and Gene Autry also performed at the theater.

A Wurlitzer-Hope Jones pipe organ was installed shortly before opening day.
In 1961, the Pantheon closed and was converted to retail space. The orchestra level was leveled with concrete and a suspended ceiling was added to close off the balcony. A Sears department store was the first to move into the newly created space. In 2006, the building was purchased by Travis Tarrants, who planned on reopening the theater as a performing arts center. Tarrants formed a non-profit organization, the Pantheon Theatre Company (PTC), and began work on the theater. The suspended ceiling was removed, and the auditorium floor was de-leveled. However, PTC relied on donations to fund the restoration of the Pantheon, and those dried up due to the recession of 2008. PTC was unable to pay the thousands of dollars in back taxes owed, and the theater was sold at a tax auction in October 2012.

On August 21, 1928 the theater was broken into and 1,200 dollars was stolen from the safe. Local police suspected that it was a disgruntled employee.
The Vincennes Business and Arts Initiative (INVin), purchased the theater in December 2014. INVin made repairs to the theater, including replacing the roof, to minimize damage to the theater during the winter. In March 2016, they announced plans for the theater to become a shared work space, which would allow business owners and entrepreneurs a place to network and share resources. Steve Miller, INVin’s founder, envisions the space including training and conference facilities.

The first film shown after CRTC took over was “Circus Days,” starring Jackie Coogan.

The Pantheon was the first theater to show talking motion pictures in Vincennes.

View from the side of the balcony.

The original ticket booth was saved and may be reinstalled in the future.

Close up of the proscenium arch.

The last retail space to occupy the theater was a baseball card store.

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14 thoughts on “Pantheon Theatre – Vincennes, Indiana

    1. Was being the key word. It’s no longer filled with concrete, but I doubt it will get much use in the future as the current plans do not call for live performances at the theater.

      1. The concrete would have been hard, but I think removing the sand they used to level the floor would have been much worse.

  1. MY MOTHER JANE O’TOOLE MOORE AND HER SISTER KATHRYN CORTS
    DANCED THERE IN A MINSTREL WITH RED AND HE WAS IN BLACKFACE.
    OUR BARBERSHOP QUARTET, CENTRAL CATHOLIC THE PATRIOT FOUR SANG THERE IN THE 50’S WITH THE ELKS CLUB CHORUS. SHOW. LOTS OF HISTORY IN MY FAMILY THERE. ALSO PAID 1
    .14CENTS TO WATCH SATURDAY MORNING SERIALS.

  2. WHILE STANDING ON STAGE, LOOKING STRAIGHT UP YOU CAN SEE ALL THE WAY UP TO WHERE THE FANS AND VENTS OPENED TO COOL AND ALSO TO DRAW SMOKE IN CASE OF FIRE. TARRANT TOOK ME ON A TOUR YEARS AGO.

  3. I have been doing research on the Pantheon for the last twenty years or so. I have collected nearly 3000 articles (mostly photos, pamphlets, and other artifacts) associated with the theatre. If you have any historical questions regarding the theatre please contact me. I may be reached by email at: norbertbrown@hotmail.com

  4. Vincennes has a jewel in the rough. There are many towns where they have restored the theatres and it they are being used again. Hopkinsille KY has the Alhambra Theatre in the downtown area. It is being used for many productions throughout the year. This past Christmas season, Lorrie Morgan had a Christmas show there. It was very well attended. I rember seeing many western movies there on Saturday afternoons. The admission was so many bread wrappers. I certainly hope that it can be restored so it can used. It could be the showplace, no pun intended, for the downtown area as it is being revitalized.

    1. Correct, A restored theater can lead to a revitalized downtown. Hopefully INVin’s plans change a bit and the theater has some performing arts aspect too.

  5. It looks like millions of dollars, but I think it should be saved if possible, This could be the new Visitors center for Vincennes. In the theater part to show short films on the history of Vincennes, This could be the first place visitors come before they go to the sites. (like at New Harmony). Can add even a short film on the theater in it’s hey day. Leave room for a Knox County-Vincennes Museum,( can change exhibits), at least it is historical. With the Red Skelton theater, this is one way to still use the theater and stage but in short films and for speakers. Need to add theater seats about the size of GRC or a little bigger. Good luck!

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