Saturday, May 17, 2008

Lights out forever at the Shady Oak Theater

Next feature showing: Parking Lot.

Recently the Business Journal reported that the new owner of the Shady Oak Theater has submitted a permit application for a demolition permit to make way for St. Louis' favorite building replacement, a parking lot for the building next door at the southeast corner of Hanley & Forsyth.

The theater, which was last operated by Wehrenberg, closed in 2002, but there were several ideas floated for adaptive re-use of the building including as a live theater venue, and most recently as a restaurant. The former owner had gone as far as lining up leases for parking spaces in a nearby garage and lot across Forsyth to serve the restaurant, but those plans unfortunately never came to fruition. Core 10 Architecture did an interior rendering of the proposal, which can be seen here.

The colonial revival/art deco Shady Oak was built in 1933, and according to Cinema Treasures, took its name from an airdome (outdoor) theater next door that was shaded by oak trees. It is hard to imagine this when you look at Clayton today, but the image below taken in the late 1920's from a National Register nomination for the Seven Gables shows that Clayton was a very different place when the Shady Oak was built.

The Shady Oak was part of the Arthur theater chain, which also ran the nearby Hi-Pointe Theater. Due to the slope of the site of the building, the small lobby was entered at a mid-level with stairs going down to the main floor seating and up to the balcony. The ceiling of the auditorium had a decorative coffered look that was achieved with concrete poured over pan forms, which is kind of a pre-curser to the waffle slab technique that became popular in the 1960's. The old Regal Theater on MLK (subject of my next post), which also was demolished last year for a parking lot had the same type of ceiling/roof structure.


Chris said...

I know Clayton gets ripped on alot nowadays for siphoning development from downtown, but it certainly has an interesting, historic past, doesn't it? The current leadership seems dead set on erasing all remnants of its past, it seems.

Anonymous said...

You gotta be f##king kidding.

Anonymous said...

This is a shame. I have great memories of this theater. Why don't people cherish the past?