Visit a theater where movies can be seen as they were in the 1920s. It still exists in downtown Canton, where you’ll find the Palace Theatre, a nostalgic part of Canton’s Downtown Arts District.
Hard to believe this all began with the financial support of a local entrepreneur who made cough syrup. In 1909, Harry Harper Ink received a patent for Tonsiline, a product to cure tonsilitis, sore throats, colds and coughs. The bottle containing the medication was in unique giraffe shaped bottles. Advertisements for this product said:
If you had a neck as long as this fellow
And a sore throat all the way down,
Tonsiline would quickly relieve it.
When the theater opened on November 22, 1926, two giraffe-shaped plaques were located above the stage arch as reminiscent of this motif to honor Ivy, who gave this gift to the community. Gasoline only cost pennies a gallon then, so people had funds available for a night on the town. Even though there were nine other movie theaters at the time, the million-dollar Canton Palace Theatre was considered the “jewel in the crown”.
Designed by Austrian-born architect, John Eberson of Chicago, the Palace sought to re-create a Spanish courtyard on a midsummer night. Its ceiling appears as a starry night with wisps of clouds floating across.
Today the Palace still has that original cloud machine that projects that dreamlike quality overhead. Ivy suggested long ago that you sit in different places during each visit to view the constellations that appear at various angles.
Their gigantic silver screen, measuring 21′ x 46′, still remains the largest movie screen in Canton. The orchestra pit has seating for eighteen musicians while downstairs there are eleven dressing rooms, a chorus room, and much more.
Their first show was a silent movie, “Tin Hats”. Admission was 25 cents and the 1900 seat auditorium was filled. The early shows presented a full evening of entertainment beginning with an organ/orchestra concert, a short silent film, live vaudeville acts, and ending with a full length feature silent film. That’s a great night of entertainment for a quarter!
This was the time of the Charleston craze. Motion pictures featured Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford. As time marched on, many famous stars appeared including George Burns and Jean Peters. Big Bands, such as Harry James and Count Basie Orchestra, found it the perfect fantasy setting for a concert.
But in the 60s and 70s, downtown Canton had a period of neglect as businesses moved to the suburbs. It’s marquee last sparkled on its 50th Anniversary in 1976. The building was slated for demolition.
Just one week before the wrecking ball was scheduled, the Canton Jaycees acted as a holding agent until citizens could be organized to make the Palace Theatre a place to be enjoyed once again. The Canton Palace Theatre Association was formed and restoration has been going on ever since. Since 1980, over four million dollars have been spent in restoration and updating.
Today, it’s marquee again burns brightly above Market Avenue and welcomes you to its grand foyer. Over 300 events are held here each year with an attendance of over 100,000 guests. Their great variety includes concerts, stage plays and movies, but you might also find public meetings using it as a perfect place to seat a large crowd.
Silent films are a special feature as they are accompanied by Jay Spencer on the original Kilgen Wonder Organ, which is a showpiece all by itself. The sound vibrates throughout the entire auditorium as it captures the happenings of the silent movies. The next silent movie special will be “The Cameraman” with Buster Keaton on Thursday, April 4.
Check out their schedule for future events on their website at cantonpalacetheatre.org. Of special interest is their First Friday family-friendly movie night each month. It’s free for the whole family!
Make plans to attend the Canton Palace Theatre sometime soon to enjoy a great movie, concert or stage performance. Relive old memories and make new ones. Feel the magic!
Canton Palace Theatre is located at 605 Market Avenue N. in Canton, Ohio just a couple blocks west of I-77.