Getting inside the Majestic Theatre of East St. Louis

Face on Majestic Theatre, East St. Louis

Chris and Katie Robleski of Fading Nostalgia recently used their night photography talents to shoot the inside of the Majestic Theatre in East St. Louis, Illinois.

The Robleskis wrote a blog about gaining access to the theater’s seldom-seen interior.

Their 26-minute podcast goes not only into the decaying but beautiful Majestic Theatre and the troubled history of East St. Louis.

More of the Robleskis photography may be seen here. You’ll see novel-looking images of the Painted Desert Trading Post and other Route 66 ruins.

The Majestic is in the 200 block of Collinsville Avenue, about a half-block from an alignment of Route 66. The theater, which features a lot of ornate stone work on the facade, was built in 1928. The theater closed more than 50 years ago, when the city had started its decline.

The theater was listed to the National Register of Historic Places in 1985, although little else has happened with the property since. It would take many millions of dollars to restore it, and East St. Louis is perennially broke.

East St. Louis’ decline was a complex mix of deindustrialization, white flight, official corruption, crime and a horrific 1917 race riot that arguably was the worst in U.S. history and scarred the city for generations. One of the most illuminating books about the city is Andrew Theising’s “Made in the USA: East St. Louis.”

(Image of one of the stone faces on the Majestic Theatre in East St. Louis, Illinois, by Paul Sableman via Flickr)

2 thoughts on “Getting inside the Majestic Theatre of East St. Louis

  1. Having been by the Makestic in November, I would guess that the chances of this ever being restored are slim to none. It is located in the downtown, but there is very little in the way of economic activity for several blocks. Many of the stop lights have been turned off and replaced with stop signs.

  2. I LIVED in E. St. Louis in the 1960’s when the city collapsed…I married my wife of 52 years in the city court house in 1966… It had been an “All American City just a decade earlier and full of hope and prosperity…A misguided mayor tried to reform the city, whose economic backbone was prostitution and drugs…Without “crime” money, cash stopped circulating, and the criminal element waited the reformer out, took over the whole town, city hall included..And the city went into a crash drive that has yet to hit bottom…to say the race riot 101 years ago had anything to do with it is the height of stupidity…

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