welcome to grand center
Grand Center is a unique cultural and historical treasure, located in the heart of St Louis. More than 1.5 million people visit Grand Center each year, coming for Broadway musicals, jazz music, contemporary art, cabaret shows, the symphony, the circus, films, festivals, and much more. An eclectic choice of restaurants and a variety of living and education options further enhance the creative energy of Grand Center and St. Louis overall.
HISTORY OF GRAND CENTER
Grand Center was a major Midwest tourist destination in the early 1900s - the premiere destination for entertainment of all kinds. Theaters, shops, offices, hotels and restaurants filled the blocks, and some of the most luxurious homes in St. Louis lined the streets.
The St. Louis Theatre - now known as Powell Symphony Hall - was the city's largest theatre when built in 1925. When William Fox, founder of 20th Century Fox, opened the Fox Theatre in 1929, he brought national recognition to St. Louis as a leader in the theatre industry at a time when news didn't travel nearly as fast as it does today.
The theaters were gathering places for St. Louisans, and people filled the streets waiting to get in. St. Louis summers were as hot and humid then as they are today, and theaters provided relief from the heat. Signs promised not just quality entertainment, but a cool experience.
The Beers Hotel was one of the most luxurious hotels in St. Louis, and medical offices filled the main floors of the Metropolitan Building and throughout Grand Center.
The advances of technology were as exciting and life-changing then as they are today. The automobile continued to become more accessible to the population, and Locust Street was given the name "Automobile Row" as it became the hub of automotive sales for St. Louis until after World War II.
Ironically, as the car was adapted into the lives of Americans, St. Louisans embraced their new mobility and moved away from the city and into the suburbs, leaving Grand Center to fall into decline by the 1960s. Businesses and theaters closed, buildings were left vacant and decayed. Many were replaced by parking lots, creating vast empty spaces within Grand Center.
Saint Louis University, however, remained dedicated to the city of St. Louis, and chose not only to stay, but to become an engine for redeveloping our city.
The Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra sparked Grand Center's return when they took Powell Symphony Hall as their new home in 1966. After an extensive $2 million renovation, the Symphony opened their first season in 1968.
Fourteen years later, the Fox Theatre re-opened its doors in 1982 and wowed the community after a $2 million restoration lead by Leon and Mary Strauss.
The Fox's extravagance was reborn, with Mary Strauss leading the effort. Leon once stated, "Mary was given an unlimited budget to restore the theatre, and she exceeded it".
Other buildings were renovated or restored over the last decade and a half, bringing Grand Center back to life. Today, the structure of that successful destination 100 years ago has been revived, and Grand Center is filled day and night with art and life.
Learn more about the history of Grand Center on one of our Free Architecture Tours