By Jay Gravatte
At the turn of
the century, many theatres lined "movie row" as 4th Street
in Louisville, Kentucky was then known. All along the strip,
movie houses sprung up to provide audiences with a splendid
atmosphere of luxury they could only imagine in the movies.
Many famous cinemas from that bygone era are no more, names
like the Majestic, the Casino, and the Rialto are but a
distant memory. Few recall the "Hollywood glitz and glamour"
era. Today, all have fallen aside to history and parking
lots. Where once these temples to the silver screen stood,
the music, laughter, and tears are now silenced …. Save from
one, The Louisville Palace Theatre.
facade building stands as it has for almost 80 years, its
dazzling neon marquee a final reflection of a bygone time
when Downtown Louisville and 4th Street was THE place to see
and be seen. When the theater opened as Loew’s Theatre on
September 1st 1928, very few theatres in Louisville could
rival its opulence and luxury. Designed by John Eberson, the
magnificent theater cost an estimated $1.2 million dollars.
With the many fountains, tapestries, and statues all
harkening to the Spanish revival motif, movie goers were
transported to another place. Floating clouds and glistening
stars lining the make believe sky on the ceiling awed
theatre patrons. In the mid 1950s, due to business deals the
theaters name was changed to United Artists Theatre, however
to almost everyone in Louisville, it was still known as
Loew’s. Along with the modernism of the 1960’s, more changes
came to the Palace; the balcony was sealed off to provide
additional room for another movie theater called the
Penthouse in 1963 and an escalator was installed. The 1970’s
brought lasting changes as well, with the rise of suburban
living and the decline of downtown, the audiences once
gathering there dwindled and the Palace ran its final reel
in early 1978.
In August of
1978, two investors purchased the building and reopened it
in November of 1981 as the Louisville Palace night club. Due
to labor disputes and financial mismanagement the nightclub
closed in 1985. In 1991, an investment group from
Indianapolis Indiana, Sunshine Theater Co. gained the
controlling interest, and began a massive renovation and
refurbishing of the theater to its original splendor
insuring that it is one of Louisville’s foremost
entertainment experiences to this day.
This is where
the story then takes a more intriguing turn. There is a
legend to the Palace that dates back to the 1990s
restoration and reopening. It was during this time that
workers began to see a man at a variety of places around the
building. An older man, wearing work clothes, his hair in a
flat top and wearing older style glasses. One worker swore
that as he walked across the stage he saw the older man
sitting in the balcony, leaning over looking at him.
Another, while painting the ceiling on scaffolding, had
fallen asleep. He related that he heard a voice in his ear
telling him to "wake up". Which he did, looking around he
noticed that he was near the edge of the scaffolding, about
to roll off. Had the spectral voice apparently saved him
from plunging to his death? Other workers have avowed they
have heard whistling, and have seen a name scribbled in the
dust in the basement. Maintenance problems seem to be among
the most common activities. At odd times the projectors will
malfunction, doors will open, and unseen footsteps are heard
walking, making the rounds late at night.
enough, the chief engineer of The Loews United Artists
Theater, a man named Ferdinand "Fred" Frisch, died of a
massive heart attack in his basement office on October 27,
1965. Mr. Frisch had worked at Loews for almost 40 years,
having relocated to Louisville from New Jersey and the
merchant marines. Could this be his ghost roaming the
theater he knew so well? On a wall in the basement, near
where his office was once located there is a picture of Fred
Frisch. Many workers that have encountered whatever spirit
roams the Palace say that the man in the photo is their
spectral visitor. The work uniform, the flat top hair, the
glasses all identical.
In that photo
of Mr. Frisch, you can see him sitting at his desk wearing
the same glasses, same haircut and work shirt he always
wore. You might be wondering how that picture ended up
hanging in the basement. Well….. I have to admit, I gave a
copy of his picture to them... I mean, doesn’t almost
everyone have a photograph of their grandfather……..
Oh, and what
is the name in the dust you might ask? Why, it’s "Ferdinand"