Powell Hall Information
This concert hall had its start in 1925 when it was erected as the St. Louis Theatre in the building that would later become Powell Symphony Hall. Originally, St. Louis Theatre was a place for the very best in vaudeville performances as well as motion pictures. This tradition of live performances and cinematic greats carried through until 1966, when St. Louis Theatre was acquired by the St. Louis Symphony with the help of a $500,000 gift from Oscar Johnson Jr, longtime leader and benefactor of the Orchestra. Ever since their final theatrical showing of The Sound of Music, Powell Hall has since become the home for symphony and musical performances.
The theatre then underwent a $2 million renovation, after which Powell Hall became the home for the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra as well as one of the world’ finest concert halls. The renovated theatre was named for Walter S. Powell, a St. Louis shoe manufacturing executive whose widow, Helen Lamb Powell, made the Symphony Society beneficiary of a $1 million charity trust. These funds were added to the $2 million grant by Ford Foundation for the endowment of the new concert hall.
Once these funds were collected, a team of architectural and acoustic specialists, assembled from talent across the world, were called in to renovate the former movie palace. This team included members of the St. Louis architectural firm of Wedemeyer, Cernik & Corrubia who were the principle architects, David Mintz as lighting engineer, and Ben Schlanger who had just completed work on the then new Metropolitan Opera House in New York City’s Lincoln Center. These individuals were consulted on everything from sightlines, exits, service facilities, and general configuration to make the best decisions that would stand the test of time.
Mr. Schlanger would then enlist acoustical engineer Dr. Cyril Harris, who was responsible for the acoustical engineering of the concert hall and opera house of hte John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington D.C.
Powell Hall was finally opened on January 24, 1968 and musicians and critics had nothing but enthusiastic praise for the concert hall’s construction. This praise included Harold Schonberg, a music critic for The New York Times, was even quoted as saying “Working with traditional means, [Cyril] Harris managed to obtain traditional sound-rich, full, detailed, with plenty of bass and extraordinary presence…a hall in which it is a pleasure to listen to music.” Famed violinist Isaac Stem even said that Powell Hall “…has warmth that enhances a performance…a pleasure for a musician. Powell Hall is first-rate. It ranks with Carnegie Hall in New York and Symphony Hall in Boston.”
Many of Powell Hall’s most famous elements combine some of the great features of the most important locations in the world. Powell Hall’s elegant red, gold, and cream decor reflects the European style of the Wightman Grand Foyer, that was modeled after the royal chapel at Versailles. The stained-glass window in the front facade features the image of Saint Louis IX, King of France which is gorgeous during concert evenings when it is illuminated. Everything about Powell Hall offers a feeling of tradition and respect that comes with being the nation’s second-oldest symphony orchestra.
The beauty of the renovated concert hall led Powell Hall to becoming the focal point for a major initiative to revitalize several theaters that were nearby. This initiative, which began in the 1980s, evolved into the Grand Center Redevelopment Project, a multi-million dollar performing arts district, with Powell Hall as its spiritual center.
Powell Hall was later entered in the National Register of Historic Places in May 2001, where it continues to be a contributing property that advances the cause of the performing arts in Missouri and across the world.
For further information on Powell Symphony Hall please read the following pages:
Powell Hall Parking:
Read all available parking options at the Powell Hall.
Find out more about our ticket guarantee and other ticket policies.
Powell Hall Seating Chart:
View the main seating configuration for the Powell Hall events and find out more about accessible seating.
Powell Hall Free Tours:
Interested in a tour of the theatre? Read this page to find out more.