A Brief History of the Canton Palace Theatre
Monday, November 22, 1926: The American public was enjoying the Charleston craze and motion pictures featuring the likes of Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford. Gasoline cost pennies a gallon, leaving funds available for an exciting night on the town. As such, in Downtown Canton, Ohio, amidst nine other local movie theatres, a standing-room-only crowd awaiting the opening of a "jewel in the crown," Harry Harper Ink's million-dollar vaudeville and movie house, The Canton Palace Theatre. The Theatre was a gift to the community from Ink, a local entrepreneur and industrialist who owned the Canton-based Tonsiline company, makers of a cough syrup formula marketed in unique giraffe-shaped bottles. The two giraffe plaques located above the proscenium arch are reminiscent of this motif.
|One of the most famous attractions of the Palace Theatre is the mighty Kilgen Pipe Organ. It was originally used to provide accompaniment for the silent movies shown on the Palace Theatre screen. The Kilgen is one of only a few left in the country, and the only one left that remains in its original home.|
Many famous stars of the stage and screen have trooped across the Palace's stage in its lifetime, including George Burns, Jean Peters, and a host of other well-known show business personalities. During the 30s and 40s, the "Big Bands" were delighted to be booked into the auspicious theatre, with the Palace playing host to the Harry James and Count Basie orchestras. It was the perfect fantasy setting for all forms of entertainment.
The 1960s and 70s witnessed a period of neglect and decay in Downtown Canton. The migration of businesses and stores to the suburbs, along with the growing popularity of television, diminished the Palace's regular patronage. The Theatre's doors were locked to the public and its marquee darkened on its 50th Anniversary in 1976.
Just one week before the building was slated for the wrecking ball, the Canton Jaycees stepped forward to act as the holding organization until a group of concerned citizens could be mobilized to make the Palace Theatre a viable business once again. The Palace was held in trust until The Canton Palace Theatre Association was formed. The building reopened in 1980 and the restoration of the theater has been ongoing since. To date, approximately four million dollars have been spent restoring the magnificence of the building and updating for the future.
Today, the Palace is alive again, both the literal and figurative cornerstone of the Downtown Canton Arts District. A vital multi-purpose entertainment facility, its marquee burns brightly sixty feet above Market Avenue, welcoming you to enter its grand foyer and become a part of Canton's nostalgic past. Hosting over 300 events a year, with an attendance of over 100,000 guests, the Palace also strives to be an important part of Canton's future.