The Palladium Theater

If you love jazz, dance, comedy and culture, check out downtown St. Pete’s award-winning, historic Palladium Theater, home to the main stage Hough Hall and intimate Side Door. Both the Mahaffey and Ruth Eckerd Hall bring acts to this venue in addition to those booked by the Palladium directors under the artistic direction of Paul Wilborn.

Established by a group of arts philanthropists in 1998, The Palladium’s central mission has been to serve all of Tampa Bay as a performing arts center that welcomes everyone and serves the entire community.

In 2007, the Palladium Theater became part of St. Petersburg College. In accepting the property, the College re-committed to the Palladium’s mission of serving all of Tampa Bay, while adding college functions where appropriate. Under the umbrella of St. Petersburg College, the Palladium enjoys support that helps assure the theater’s long-term future as a vital part of the cultural life in Tampa Bay.

With its two venues, the 850-seat Hough Hall, as well as its intimate award-winning 175-seat candlelit listening room, The Side Door, The Palladium fosters artistically and culturally diverse performing arts, educational and film programs that bring artists and audiences together in a first-class professional, affordable setting. Consistently ranked as one of Tampa Bay’s best, most affordable venues for innovative performances and events (classical, jazz, blues, theatre, opera, Celtic, comedy, dance, educational, literary), fundraisers and provides a full-service, affordable rental facility for artists, producers and community organizations.

Giving back is part of the mission. For example, on Feb. 19, Mutts Gone Nuts performance benefits the St. Petersburg Free Clinic. The Palladium nurtures partnerships with established and emerging local artists and cultural organizations that use the theater as a venue and showcases selected programs of St. Petersburg College, giving students opportunities to work intimately with renowned touring professionals as well as with local artists, such as February’s Jazz Festival.

An Artistic History

One of the nation’s oldest and most distinguished builders, the George A. Fuller Construction Company, completed construction of the building in 1925. The company’s namesake building, The Fuller Building was completed in 1902 in New York City – better known today as The Flatiron Building. Other NYC buildings constructed by the company included the Dag Hammarskjöld Library at the United Nations, and Lincoln Center. In Washington, D.C., Fuller built the Supreme Court and Lincoln, as well as the National Cathedral.

The Palladium Theater, now on the National Register of Historic Places, was born in June 1998, when a group of local leaders, headed by Paul Stavros, Bill and Hazel Hough, Mary Wyatt Allen, George Rahdert, and Gus and Frances Stavros, forming The Palladium Theater Inc., took possession of the 73-year-old First Church of Christ, Scientist.  The price, $575,000 covered the building and two parking lots; by today’s prices, the purchase counts as a very good investment. A year after the transfer, the Palladium Theater played host to the Florida Orchestra. It has been presenting music, drama, dance, and virtually every other kind of performance ever since, with an emphasis on showcasing local performers, composers, and writers.

The change from church to theater included some $300,000 of alterations. Seats in the mainstage concert hall, the 850-seat Hough Hall, were removed at the front to allow for a usable stage. The most noticeable changes, however, were the acoustic cloud under the ceiling (that absorbed sound that would otherwise continue upwards into the arched ceiling) and the grid from which the theater’s lighting system is suspended. Other changes included modem sound, light, and electrical systems, a sprinkler system, handicapped access. Installed in the last two years, the concert hall  now boasts a state of the art sound system, making the theater nearly acoustically perfect, The original 1926 Skinner organ remains in the building and is included in selected performances.

The conversion of the downstairs Sunday School room into the Stavros Great Room, a facility still used for meetings, parties, and smaller events, is now the Palladium’s second successful performance venue. The award-wining, 175-seat  “Side Door,” is firmly established as Tampa Bay’s best, most intimate listening room for singer songwriters, jazz, blues, and so much  more.

The hallmarks of the Romanesque Revival style are easy to see. The golden brick Fifth Avenue facade is a little unusual; stucco was much more common. But the terra cotta roof is typical of the style, as are the finely detailed Corinthian capitals that top the limestone pillars across the facade. Climb the front steps and you can see the high vaulted portico and the ceiling’s richly detailed metal chancellors. Inside, you see how well the basilica’s plan works for the Palladium and how well it worked for the church. Aisles flanking the high central space provide efficient circulation and easy access to the theater’s seating.

Most visitors to the Palladium are awed by the exceptionally beautiful tiles created exclusively for and found throughout the building. These tiles were ordered from the workshop of Ernest Batchelder, a renowned artisan who became known worldwide for his arts-and-crafts-style tilework. All of the Palladium’s handcrafted tiles, including the floor tile, were made in Batchelder’s California workrooms and shipped to St. Petersburg.  PN

Upcoming Perfomances:

Visit http://www.mypalladium.org/events for more amazing 2017 shows.

February: Laugh your socks off with Upright Citizens’ Brigade (2/17) and get your King on with Chris MacDonald’s Memories of Elvis (2/11).  Laissez le bontemps roulet with Beausoleil (2/18) or get classical on 2/14 with Tampa Bay Symphony or (2/8) with the Palladium Chamber Players.

March: Rock out to The Florida Bjorkestra (3/19) or twist with Chubby Checker & The Wildcats (3/23).  Beatle-lovers will enjoy The McCartney Project (3/16) and sixties fans can get ack with The Yardbirds with Vanilla Fudge (3/5).

SPECIAL OFFER:  

If you sign up for Paradise News FREE weekly e-newsletter on the top right of our website http://paradisenewsfl.info, you will be entered into our contest for a pair of tickets for Life on Venus, The Music of Bowie and Bjork (3/19) or The Resurrection of Stevie Ray Vaught: Billy Evanochko (3/30).  

Go to: The Palladium, 253 5th Ave., N, St. Petersburg, 33701; 727-822-3590 www.mypalladium.org.

Where To Eat & Drink:

Stop by the Hollander Hotel for a pre-theater nosh.

If it’s Thursday, you can enjoy 50% off bottles of wine and a customer appreciation dinner special for $12 that includes soup or salad, entree and a scoop of ice cream after 4pm. Every night is a good time at the alfresco bar and Taproom, where the craft beers flow and the burgers and sandwiches are yummy. Check their website for entertainment, from magic to live music.

The Hollander Hotel, 421 4th Ave. N, St Petersburg, 727.873.7900  http://hollanderhotel.com

Street Parking:

On-street parking between 5th & 7th

Avenues N, from Beach Drive to 2nd Street is designated as Residential Parking Permit zones from 8 am to 8 pm daily with  2-hour parking allowed without a permit.  Permit holders are exempt from the 2-hour parking limit.

Parking Options Convenient to the Palladium:

  • Palladium Lots: Palladium parking is available in the lot across Fifth Avenue from the theater or in the lot adjacent to the theater.
  • Souzou Asian Fusion  (727) 823-4050, 425 Fifth Avenue N., one and a half blocks due west of the Palladium. Ample parking anytime and free valet during restaurant hours for Palladium patrons. Just show your ticket to the Palladium, and enjoy parking at no charge.
  • SP+ Parking  (727) 242-1225 – 350 Third St., N., one block south, then one block west of the Palladium: 350 spaces; garage parking at $1 per hour; payment via debit/credit card; unattended; open 24/7; 20 cameras aid St. Pete staff to monitor security; advance reserved parking available.

Story by Nanette Wiser

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