I was fortunate enough to join the Landmarks Association at the former Columbia Theater (now one of the region's most unique private residences and the home of the Columbia Foundation for the Arts) on Saturday, October 3rd for a fabulous fall fundraiser including a celebration of John Karel (recently retired Director of Tower Grove Park) and his contributions to historic preservation in St. Louis.
The event was elegant and thoughtfully put together. It was a rare chance to party under the stars at the Columbia Foundation! What stood out to me the most was the magnificence of the Columbia Foundation. I was also delighted with the pleasure of meeting the owner and Artist of the Columbia Foundation, Frank H. Schwaiger.
Frank enlightened me on some of the history of the building, which I found fascinating, so I want to share it. The Columbia Theater was erected in 1925 as a Vaudeville Theater. Notable Artists who played the Columbia include master Magician Harry Houdini and The Three Stooges. However, by the time the theater was operable, vaudeville was on the wane. In the early 1930's the Columbia was converted into an Art Deco styled movie theater.In 1957, the theater underwent an extensive conversion into a racquet club. Then in the 1970s the building was the scene of a fire which resulted in it's closing. Purchased at auction in 1987, the burned, derelict building was renovated by Frank H. Schwaiger. Inspired by Mediterranean cultures, the Columbia Theater is imbued with an atmosphere reminiscent of Pompeii.
Frank was gracious enough to open up his home for a fabulous fundraiser, and I think it was a success!
Written By: Blake Anderson, IT Officer for Ted Wight