Last Updated on June 11, 2019 by Jeremy
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The Palace Theatre in Greensburg is a popular performing arts space that is known for its history as much as its world-class performers that take the stage each week.
While I am still looking for the perfect show to take in a performance at the theater, I was able to get in on a behind-the-scenes tour to check out more of the history of this iconic spot!
A Brief History of The Palace Theatre
One thing I love about theaters in the area is that they're full of a ton of history, and The Palace Theatre in Greensburg is no exception.
The area the theater encompasses has been home to performing arts spaces since the 1880s when an opera house was built where the theater now stands. As the decades went on other ventures occupied the space including a boxing arena, ice skating rink, and finally The Strand Theater with an attached candy shop built where the side courtyard and event space for The Palace Theater stands today.
In the early 1920s the land next to The Strand was purchased and built into the theater we know today (then called The Manos Theatre, with The Palace being the grandest of all the theaters in the chain). The theater opened on September 2nd, 1926 with two 4-hour performances that were shown to a packed house of thousands and, naturally, went well into the night.
Shortly thereafter movies became popular and in the 1930s Warner Brothers bought the theater and operated it for many decades as a place to show their movies (during this period of time production companies also owned theaters to distribute their films).
The theater continued on until it was sold multiple times throughout the 70s, and was finally saved by the Westmoreland Cultural Trust in the 90s, restored to its former glory, and is now a stunning spot for shows of all kinds in Greensburg!
What You Can See on a Tour of The Palace Theatre
Apart from a show, The Palace Theatre is a museum in its own right.
The lobby and balcony levels feature historical film equipment, the fountain on the balcony is an incredibly rare style, the theater walls are adorned with some stunning works of art by Louis Grell, and the basement used to have a bowling alley in it (the latter part only visible on tours)!
Seeing these when visiting for a show is great, but hearing their historical significance while on a tour cannot be beaten.
Yes, the paintings are gorgeous, but they also went through a painstaking restoration in recent years. The old organ was purchased and moved across state lines to be with a collector. And the basement bowling alley was likely used during the same time the theater was open for shows (hope the movies were loud ones if used at the same time!). This is just scratching the surface of the theater's impressive history and restoration.
So while you can see the historical theater when visiting for a show, be it for an up-and-coming performer or a star that's been touring for decades, a tour of the theater really helps bring The Palace Theatre's history to life. Getting on the stage, into the dressing rooms, and exploring the basement are just added perks!
The Palace Theatre is located at 21 West Otterman Street in Greensburg, PA, and is open for performances and live music. Tours are available for groups (typically 10 or more) and public tours are also offered the Saturday after Labor Day to celebrate the theater's anniversary. I was a guest of Westmoreland Heritage for a behind-the-scenes tour for this article. The Palace Theatre is a stop on the Westmoreland Heritage Passport– be sure to get your sticker when visiting for a show.