January 21, 1966: the Lyceum Theatre’s final bow

The Lyceum Theatre. (Image: Duluth Public Library)

On this day in Duluth in 1966, more than 1,000 people gathered at the Lyceum Theatre at 5th Avenue West and Superior Street for the final performance: a tour led by members of the St. Louis County Historical Society, Duluth Playhouse and Junior League. In fact, 15 of them. The historical society’s executive secretary, Mrs. Josiah H. Greene, told the Duluth News Tribune that the group had planned on four tours, but so many people showed up to say goodbye that 11 more were added. The newspaper was sentimental in its coverage, beginning with a headline that read “Grand Old Lady Bows Out; 1,000 Bid Poignant Farewell to Lyceum.” The story began, “The Lyceum Theatre gave her final performance Saturday before a packed house of more than 1,000 visitors. Critics might call her production a nostalgic ‘History of the Temple of the Muses,’ but to those who attended it meant many different things. Some came because their parents or grandparents attended many years ago. Others because they had performed at the Lyceum. And still others because they themselves were regular patrons at Lyceum productions. A few came because their parents had their first date there, and on and on and on…some even cried. it may be that the grand old lady was showing off a bit Saturday afternoon when she stood in review for the crowds that toured her, for she was dressed in all the fineries and stage trappings she had worn for 75 years of theatrical performances.” You can read about the Lyceum’s entire history here.

9 Responses to January 21, 1966: the Lyceum Theatre’s final bow

  1. My first date with my boyfriend (later husband) was at the Lyceum Theatre. At that time, the cost of a movie (maybe 2) was a quarter (1953-54). It is a shame that so many of the iconic buildings, i.e., Spalding Hotel, Freimuths Department Store, etc., in Duluth were razed. At least someone had the good sense to allow the Civic Center Buildings to remain — what a treasure.

  2. The deterioration and destruction of the Lyceum resulted in the loss of an architectural treasure. Fortunately the Great Northern Passenger station, a block away, was saved.

  3. My great-uncle, Jim Milne, retired as a projectionist at the Lyceum.
    And Ray Marshall I am the grand nephew of Bill Sundin who you are related to through Anna.

  4. My grandfather, Dr. Samuel H Boyer Sr., had his first office in the Lyceum building. He later co-officed with Dr. Charles (?) Bagley. There is a reproduction of their office by the railroad mesueum.

  5. Oral Manilla taught dancing lessons in what was once the rehearsal hall upstairs. So one Friday evening in between Frankenstein movies, our dancing class went down a spiral staircase to the back stage area, and then on to dance on that remarkable stage! Only bummer was the fellow who made his living dressed as Frankenstein greeting us at the foot of the stairs.

  6. As Jim points out the balconies were indeed closed, but on occasion fractious and adventuresome boys during those Saturday AM shows, sneaked up there. The purpose was to “whiz: over the railing.

  7. In the middle 50’s we could get a quarter from Mom on a Saturday, walk a couple miles downhill, see a double feature (probably “cowboys & injuns”, watch a newsreel (no television then)and catch the “features of coming attractions”, all for 9 cents. That would still leave us money for popcorn and a pop! Then, of course, it was those couple of miles back uphill to home. [We lived at 11th Ave E and 11th Street back then.] I think the price later jumped up to 12 cents.

  8. Thanks for that Jim, your description sounds more like the one I used to go to as a kid, the marquee and all.

  9. I was there that day. After years of attending movies there, it was a thrill to finally walk through the entire theater, on stage, back stage, dressing rooms (covered with graffiti) and the two balconies, which were closed to moviegoers whenever I was there. We will never see its like again. In its final years, the outside didn’t look like it does in your photo. The entrance had been moved to the east end of the building and a large movie marquee installed above it. The grand entrance pictured was altered and storefronts installed, but the sculpted masks of comedy and tragedy were still visible. They are now at the Duluth Playhouse.

Leave a reply