Photo originally published Oct. 12, 1991
Workers hung antique chandeliers in the lobby of the State Theatre in downtown Minneapolis as they scrambled to put the finishing touches on a two-year, $8 million renovation. There was a public open house in two weeks, and the grand opening, a Minnesota Opera production of “Carousel,” was less than a month away.
The goal of the project was ambitious: restoring the 1921 theater to its former glory. When it opened, the theater was ahead of its time. It boasted the city’s first air-conditioning system, and the original stage floor was made of glass, allowing light to be directed from below. A Wurlitzer organ soon followed, and you could catch a daily performance for just a quarter. The theater spent its pre-renovation life as a movie house, with occasional concerts, vaudeville acts and ballets sprinkled in.
In 1978, a church bought the theater to use as a worship space, covering up many of the architectural details. Its spiritual life was short-lived, and in 1989, the Minneapolis Community Development Agency bought the entire block and the renovation of the theater began, including the restoration of the original murals and chandeliers.
But the chandeliers these workers were installing weren’t the originals. They came from a Cleveland theater thanks to a donation by theater preservationist Ray Shepardson, who directed the State’s renovation.