Gem Theatre

107 W. Oak Street,
Palestine, TX 75801

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Additional Info

Previously operated by: Robb & Rowley-United Inc.

Functions: Retail

Previous Names: Gem Picture Palace

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Gem Theatre

In 1908 two conjoined buildings were erected in downtown Palestine, Texas. The left side was built by Judge P.W. Brown and became the gas company. The right side, built by Judge B.H. Gardner, became a silent movie theatre, called the Gem Picture Palace. Upstairs were sixteen offices housing doctors, dentists, and lawyers. By 1925 it had been taken over by Robb & Rowley United Inc., but suffered severe damage from a fire later that year. It was rebuilt and remodeled.

The Gem Theatre ceased to be a movie theatre in the 1930’s when the structure became the office for Texas Power and Light until the 1970’s. In 1996 the twin buildings were bought by Roddy and Susan Millichamp. After three years of intense restoration, the old Gem Theatre was reopened as the Star of Texas Antiques shop.

Contributed by Lost Memory

Recent comments (view all 4 comments)

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on May 9, 2020 at 11:44 pm

The October 15, 1910 issue of The Moving Picture World had this item:

“Palestine. Tex. — Bell & Englebretch, of St. Louis, have opened a new moving picture theater at 288 Oak street. It is known as the ‘Gem.’”
It’s possible that Palestine renumbered its lots at some point, accounting for the discrepancy in the address. It might also be that the building erected in 1908 did not become a theater until 1910, or perhaps Bell & Englebretch simply didn’t tell the magazine that they were taking over an existing theater when they sent in their notice to the editors.

By 1925 the Gem was being operated by Robb & Rowley Theatres, and that year it suffered a major fire, as noted in this item from the October 24 issue of Universal Weekly:

“H B. ROBB of the Robb and Rowley Enterprises announces that his firm is planning an extensive remodeling program for their theatres in Palestine, Texas. Besides remodeling and rebuilding the Gem, which was recently destroyed by fire, they contemplate spending $25,000 on the Best.”

DavidAndrews on May 17, 2020 at 4:30 pm

I have uploaded two scans. One is the August 24, 1910 article from The Palestine Herald announcing the remodeling of the building with the intention of opening a “picture show.” The other scan is an ad in the September 10, 1910 edition of The Palestine Herald announcing the opening of the Gem.

DavidAndrews on May 17, 2020 at 4:36 pm

A side note: “The Model” referenced in the August 24 1910 article was a ladies ready to wear store, not a movie theatre.

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