Previously known as the Kiel Opera House, the Peabody Opera House, now named the Stifel Theatre, is a civic performing arts building located in St. Louis, Missouri today. Officially opening its doors in 1934 and remaining in operation until 1991 under the Kiel title, it was closed then so the auditorium could be demolished and replaced by the Scottrade Center. After miscommunications between developers, the house wasn’t renovated until 2009 when St. Louis Board of Aldermen voted 25-1 to subsidize the renovation and ensure the opera house would be reopened under new owners: Sports Capital Partners.
Once the agreement was reached, the subsidies were funded by municipal bonds and state plus federal historic tax credits. On July 12, 2010, the developers announced the opera house would be released under a new name, the Stifel Theatre, which was named after the company Peabody Energy.
The renovation took 14-months in total, including the construction of a new building entrance for patrons. By October 1, 2011, the Stifel Theatre was officially open to the public following the $79 million renovations. The first show hosted the likes of Jay Leno, Aretha Franklin, and Chuck Berry. The show sold out, which meant that 3,100 people were in attendance.
History of the Stifel Theatre, Saint Louis, MO
The Stifel Theatre recently celebrated 75-year anniversary since its original construction in the 30s. The theatre was completed in 1934 as part of the Municipal Auditorium complex, which included the 9,300-seat Convention Hall, also known as Kiel Auditorium. Construction on that part of the hall was not completed until 1936. Designed by architects Louis LaBeaume and Eugene S. Klein, the construction process officially started in 1932. Today, the Opera House is all the remains of the original complex.
The inspiration for the design and construction of the theatre was borne out of the “City Beautiful” movement that stuck in St. Louis after hosting the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904. This movement promoted the beautification in local structures to create moral and civic virtue among urban populations. The architecture of the Stifel Theatre included eight Corinthian columns, plus sculptured panels with inscriptions by Carl Schurz and Woodrow Wilson.
During the World’s Fair period, a trio of prominent architects convened to form the St. Louis Public Buildings Commission, which went on to sketch the first drawing of the Municipal Auditorium in 1919. A few years later, St. Louis voters cleared the way for the plan in 1923 when the most significant bond issue to date was passed for the project.
Stifel Theatre Layout
The Stifel Theatre features six to seven venues, including an ornate main theatre with 2,100 seats and a two-story front lobby, for small side theaters or halls, an exposition hall, basement restaurant and bar space, offices, dressing rooms, and other spaces that support the shows. During the “height” of the activity at the house, it attracted the world’s finest performers, including concert artists, Broadway shows, plays, dance companies, symphonies, blues, jazz, country-western, roc, grand opera, and light opera. The theatre was also home to Veiled Prophet balls, choral pageants, traveling exhibits, and more.