1514 W. Vliet Street,
1514 W. Vliet Street,Milwaukee, WI 53205
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I write this, on the day after the death of Chuck Berry. His death reminded me of seeing him perform along with Lavern Baker, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis at the Colonial Theatre. During the mid 50’s, many of the rising stars of Rock and Roll played at this theatre before Dick Clark started bringing his Cavalcade of Stars around the country to larger venues. This was a great time for the Colonial Theatre and should be noted as a part of it’s later history.
When the COLONIAL’s Barton organ was removed and its pipes were being carried out, the police were summoned by a passerby who thought the pipes were some sort of missiles. I’m told this scenario has happened elsewhere.
Photos of the Colonial are apparently scarce, but one corner of the auditorium is shown at upper left on this page of a promotional booklet published in the late 1920s by the Federal Cement Tile Co. of Chicago.
Jim Rankin’s introduction to the Colonial Theatre says that the rebuilding of 1926 was the work of the architectural firm of Dick & Bauer. They should be added to the Architects and Firms field.
Does anyone know what happened to that Golden Toned Barton Theater Pipe Organ, 3/10, manual/rank, keyboards/sets of pipes, shipped from the Barton factory in 1926?
I lived on 16th Between Vliet and McKinley until I was 4(1968) and I remember the Theater building across the street at the end of our alley, I did not know the name of it until I read this
Former Colonial usher Russ Klein remembers on retrocom.com:
I was born in 1923 a few years before most of you and my memories go back quite a ways. I attended Siefert School as a kid and Ice Skated at the rink they made when flooding the play ground. The warming shed produced a lot of memories for me. Went to West Division High School. Was an Usher at the Colonial Theatre on Vliet St. when I lived on 21st Vliet. One of my fondest memories was when I entered the Amateur Contest at Riverside Theatre and met Eddie Howard who heard me sing and gave me his business card and told me to look him up when I graduated from High School. By the way, I won first prize that night in the Amateur Hour. Of course, World War 2 came along and I entered the army and became a Paratrooper and went Overseas and after the war spent some real nice times in France and Germany. I ended up being a First Sgt. so I pretty much could do just about anything I wanted to do after the war. Well, moved from Milwaukee to live in Eagle Springs, WI on a lake there and from there moved to California. Came back to Milwaukee in 1956 and lived in Brown Deer before Milwaukee annexed it. Finally moved from Milwaukee in 1970 to FL. Moved several times after that and lived in CO, OR, SC and now retired in AR where I went to College while taking flight training before volunteering for the Paratroops. Well, not much of a story about Milwaukee but I bet I wouldn’t know the city if I returned. I haven’t been back to Milwaukee since 1970, however, my heart still skips a beat when I get mail from my buddies who still live there and with whom I grew up with.
No, Charles, the COLONIAL on Greenfield Ave. you mention, was in West Allis, a suburb of Milw., and nothing remains of that theatre, the lot having been rebuilt upon in later years. That location was a 600 seater, not the 800 seater on Vliet St., the first building discussed on this page. We also had yet another COLONIAL on Milwaukee Ave. in South Milwaukee, another suburb, but that venue had only 400 seats and is also gone, having lasted only from 1910 to 1914. This data if from the 1986 book “Milwaukee Movie Palaces” by Larry Widen, and though out of print, copies can sometimes be found by book locator services, or viewed via Inter-Library Loan at most libraries.
Please let me know if you learn anything more about this theatre. Thank You. Jim Rankin =