Chillicothe Missouri Luella Theatre

The Majestic, Strand, Dickinson Theatres

The Luella Theatre was the first opera house in Chillicothe, Missouri, to serve the patrons of the city for not only entertainment but as a place for social organization gatherings for important events in the late nineteenth century. In January 1890, some of the distinguished residents in the city developed the idea to venture into having an opera house building. By April, the city plans to erect several buildings and a potential opera house near the corner of Washington and Clay streets. That same year, the City Hall had provided space for a temporary opera house theatre under the management firm of Zibe B. Myers and Schneider.

Z. B. Myers had a successful livery and transfer business while cooperating with the municipal theatre. In 1889, he acquired property located north of the Leeper House Hotel for the purpose of building an opera house. On March 4, 1895, Myers began the construction of his $17-18,000 theatre on that site with the theatre architect of Kansas City, George H. Johnston. The formal opening night was on June 27, 1895, and christened the Luella Grand Theatre after his wife, Luella Lile. The building has a seating capacity of 650 people. The next building over, on the true corner of Washington and Clay Streets, was the Luella Hotel owned by Peter Young and managed by George Perryman. They adopted the Luella name. As manager of the theatre opera house, Myers scheduled a variety of attractions from musicians and plays from traveling theatre companies. He also allowed his theatre to be rented out to host events for school graduations, conventions, society clubs, and other entertainment. In April 1905, exterior improvements of the building were made at a cost of $1,000. A new asphalt roof and a fire escape with a columned porch at the front entrance were added. Financial difficulties appeared as Myers struggled to draw in crowds with his scheduled attractions. He decided he would retain his schedule until mid-November before announcing his closing of the theatre to the city newspaper. The following year, the interior had undergone major renovations on the walls and ceiling with colorful fresco mural paintings and a new stage curtain installed.

Chillicothe began receiving silent film reels as another form of entertainment. By 1911, the new managers Carroll E. Lindsey and John W. Foote renamed the building the Majestic Theatre, which was a venue that played motion pictures with orchestra ensembles from the Chillicothe Film Exchange Company. In 1913, the lobby was enlarged by removing two waiting rooms and the ticket office to accommodate more space. The ticket office was moved to the right of the entrance, and floor tiles and brass fixtures were installed. Vaudeville acts continued to be scheduled despite the new national film industry taking effect. Pianist John William Blind Boone of Missouri, performed at the Majestic in September 1913. Between 1918 and 1920, the theatre sponsored film education for the High School with contracts with The Chautauqua Motion Picture Bureau of Kansas City and the new theatre manager.

In 1920, Mr. W. P. Cuff became the new owner and manager when he purchased the Majestic theatre house and renamed it The Strand chain theatre, which formally opened on November 30. At the cost of $100,000, The Strand theatre concentrated as only a motion picture house, shortening the stage as a site for the extension of the Strand Hotel owned by Johnny Kling. The Strand Hotel next door replaced the Luella Hotel. On opening night, the theatre did not occupy a full crowd, only two-thirds of the audience appeared. A water fountain was placed in the lobby. Two emergency exits were located at the back of the theatre. The second floor contained a ladies rest room and a smoke room for men. By 1927, The Glen W. Dickinson Theatre Inc., which manages twenty-two theatre houses in Kansas and Missouri, had purchased the Strand, still maintaining the name of the theatre. Two years later, the theatre company sets up the $18,000 Western Electric Sound System for the transition of playing talking motion pictures. An agreement was reached with Johnny Kling and the theatre company; to modernize the theatre and change the name to Dickinson theatre on April 21, 1931. The seating capacity was enlarged and neon and lightbulb signs were built on the outside of the theatre. On March 28, 1933, the Dickinson theatre was engulfed in flames, spreading from two or three blocks. A fire broke out from the stage curtain while a film was playing. Audience members exited the building without any injuries. After the fire, the Glen W. Dickinson Theatre Inc. moved its operations to the Empire Theatre on Locust street.

In 1935, John Kling began construction of an additional building that would connect to the Strand Hotel on the site of the previous Dickinson theatre. The new building became the Hotel Strand Coffee Shop, which opened in April 1936 as a restaurant. The Fiesta Room, a private room dedicated to banquet social events, was built underneath the Coffee Shop and accessed through the Hotel lobby. Painted murals lined the wall, depicting scenes of Old Mexico, and the culture and activities of people like Indians and Spaniards, including women were represented from different parts of Mexico. The doors had panels that incorporated designs from Mexican pottery. In 1975, Mr. and Mrs. Harold Pulliam operated the Carriage House Inn restaurant in the Strand Hotel. Today, The Strand Hotel buildings serve as a housing apartment complex.



716 Clay St, Chillicothe, MO 64601 ~ The building between the Strand Hotel and the Livingston County Memorial Library is at the corner of Clay and Washington streets.