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Trail Theater: St. Joseph, MO



St. Joseph Missouri’s Trail Theater opened its doors in 1951 with the comedy “Father’s Little Dividend.” Clad in turquoise vitrolite tiles with a fluid aluminum awning, curved wall of structural glass, and a red flourish of neon signage, the streamline modern building embodied the technology, motion, and consumerist ethos of the atomic age. The building’s interior celebrated the convenience of modern materials including plush seats, light fixtures glowing behind metal troughs, ample curtains and carpeting, and acoustic blocks to enhance sound quality. The name “Trail” referenced the pioneer trails that once departed from Missouri, connecting the building’s auto-aesthetic to St. Joseph’s celebrated early history.

The theater closed in 2007, faced with the costs of updating the facilities for digital format screenings. A group of local partners bought the building in 2011 with plans to adaptively reuse it. Eleven years later, the building is set to reopen as an event venue for concerts, film screenings, and live performances.


Sheila Vemmer

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