Building History

A long, colorful history

Everyman’s new home opened as The Empire in 1910 with vaudeville performances and later hosted Yiddish theatre, boxing, and bingo parties. The original building was designed by Otto Simonson, a local architect, with William H. McElfatrick. In 1937, during its life as The Palace—a burlesque theatre—there was public uproar over the "indecency" of the performances and the theatre was closed. Shortly thereafter, and as if to ensure the death of its racy past, the theatre was converted to a parking garage. In 1947, the building was redesigned into a 1,550-seat movie house by Baltimore architect John Zink, one of the major East Coast theatre architects of the mid-twentieth century. The Town Theatre, as it was known during this period, had a glittering opening with the now-classic film “It’s a Wonderful Life, “ which was attended by star Jimmy Stewart and director Frank Capra. By 1990, The Town was in disrepair, closing its doors and remaining a vacant shadow of its former self until it was donated by the Bank of America and The Harold A. Dawson Trust to Everyman Theatre in 2006. Along with the recently restored Hippodrome Theatre and the Bromo Seltzer Arts Tower, the creation of Everyman’s new home plays an important role in the renaissance of a theatre and arts district in downtown Baltimore’s Westside. The restoration of the neoclassical terra cotta and granite façade represents the most historically significant aspect of the renovation.

Soon, actors will again enliven the space and summon the original spirit of the building."This will be a place where we come of age," says Vincent Lancisi. "We'll have room to do our best work, room to grow, and we'll own it. We'll really be home.”