Last night I traveled to the beautiful Peabody Opera House to see Jackson Brown with a friend and family. The acoustics and Brown’s voice was lovely, but I admit to being distracted. Not by a person sitting beside me, not by talking, phones or anything off putting, my distraction was from the beauty of this architectural wonder.
Life for the Opera House and its 3,500-seat main theater began after the theater was completed in 1934. The Opera House was originally part of the Municipal Auditorium complex that included the 9,300-seat Convention Hall that later became known as Kiel Auditorium.
This golden building was designed architects Louis LaBeaume and Eugene S. Klein, construction on the Municipal Auditorium began in 1932. According to the history portion of the website, “The Opera House is all that remains of the original complex and extends south approximately 250 feet, where it meets Scottrade Center, the arena completed in 1994 that replaced Kiel Auditorium. Its facade extends 322 feet along Market Street frontage on the Memorial Plaza as part of St. Louis’ most significant grouping of civic buildings.”
The distraction began from the minute I entered the two-story lobby created from Tennessee and Ste. Genevieve marble. Wide steps and ornate gold décor are awe inspiring in this classically beautiful place. In Bible study this week the discussion came up about beauty and whether or not seeing it makes you want to own it. My good friend Janna made the comment, “I think seeing it is enough, I don’t have to own it, it just makes me feel better being in a lovely place or seeing something beautiful.”
I so agree, coming to the Peabody Opera House made me happy before I even sat down to hear a note of the performance. History of the building declares that the “Inspiration for the design of the Municipal Auditorium was born out of the City Beautiful movement that reached its height of popularity in America with the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair. The City Beautiful movement sought to use beautification and monumental grandeur in cities to create moral and civic virtue among urban populations.”
While the municipal concert area had the largest venues, the Opera House had more during those early years. They also became home to the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra. While George Strait is more my style, I can see the appeal
!In 1943, the Municipal Auditorium complex was re-named in honor of former St. Louis Mayor Henry W. Kiel after his passing. Over the years an amazing array of performers and performances took place on the Opry stage, until May 4, 1991, a performance by the St. Louis Philharmonic marked the final event. The Opera House was closed on May 7, 1991.
There were several tries to reopen the building that all failed. In the mean time, the municipal building was torn down and Scott Trade center was set up. One of the members of our group had some colorful stories about what happened and how the opera house was saved, but they are not in the history books.
Last night, we vied for parking and walked side by side with St. Louis Blues fans. While they were decked out in hockey apparel we headed to the more sedate and aged Jackson Brown concert. The Opera House was thankfully renovated and reopened in June 2010. The Peabody name came asthanks to a naming rights partnership with Peabody Energy. Today the Opera House is a remaining icon of the City Beautiful movement and it certainly moved this country girl that came to town.