Opened in December 1906, the Central Business District’s Civic Theatre is the oldest surviving theater in New Orleans.¹ The intimate Beaux Arts–style facility designed by the Stone Brothers initially opened as a Shubert Theatre, a New York–based chain that hosted a variety of theatrical productions. It changed hands and names several times over the years, finally becoming the Civic in 1950, at which time it gained the iconic neon sign that still anchors the Baronne Street facade. After briefly serving as a discotheque in the 1970s, the theater was fully vacated in the 1980s and remained closed for decades.² In 2012, local architecture firm Eskew+Dumez+Ripple spearheaded a full-scale rehabilitation of the local landmark for owner/developer Brian Gibbs and partners.³ Made possible in part by federal and state historic rehabilitation tax credits, as well as other tax incentive programs, the project put special focus on the restoration of such historic features as the interior’s ornate plasterwork, while also installing cutting-edge lighting, sound, and stage systems to create a fully modernized, flexible events space.⁴ The theater reopened in September 2013 and hosts everything from musical acts to films to comedy shows.⁵
1. Danielle Del Sol, “A Sign of the Times,” Preservation in Print 40 no. 2 (March 2013): 20.
3. Eskew+Dumez+Ripple, “Civic Theatre Restoration.”
4. Del Sol, Sign of the Times, 20; and Doug MacCash, “The Civic, said to be New Orleans oldest theater, set to reopen,” nola.com, December 13, 2012.
5. Keith Spera, “Empire of the Sun powered the party for the reborn Civic Theatre’s first concert,” nola.com, September 20, 2013.
For Further Research:
Porges, Seth. "The True Story of How New Orleans' Oldest Theater Was Saved — And Turned Into Its Most Tech-Forward." Forbes.com, 5-27-2014.