(Back to Wisconsin
Riverside Theater –
Haunted Place – Riverside Theater
116 W Wisconsin Avenue
Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53203
(414) 727-5963 * The Riverside Theater web site
Box Office Hours:
Noon-6:30 p.m. Monday–Friday
and two hours before scheduled start times of events.
The Riverside Theater on Google Maps
The glorious, grand, 12 story Empire Office
building which is home to the Riverside Theater can be found near
the corner of W. Wisconsin Avenue and N. Plankinton, in the
downtown area of Milwaukee, near the Milwaukee River.
DESCRIPTION AND HISTORY:
The Riverside Theater is one of 6 grand
vaudeville/movie theaters designed and constructed during the 1920s
by Classic theater specialists, Kirchoff and Thomas Rose, in the
city of Milwaukee. They were picked to create this theater because
of their marvelous work done on the Palace Theater in New York
City. As of 2008, the Riverside Theater is the only classic theater
which they designed that is still standing in Milwaukee, and still
being used for theatrical and musical performances.
The Riverside Theater was built to be a
fancy, grand-looking "presentation house" with 2,558 seats, which
are located on the orchestra level, in a huge balcony via the
elevator, and in three box seats on each wall below the organ
screens. It originally was envisioned to be a vaudeville stage by
RKO vaudeville promoters, but by the time it was built, vaudeville
was "on its last legs," so a movie screen was added as well. It
opened on April 29th, 1928, offering a mixture of
vaudeville/theatrical presentations and movies as well.
The French baroque style, showcased in the
theater's decorum, truly offered a wonderful place to escape the
worries and troubles of life, while enjoying the entertainment
offered. The theater's auditorium had 5 chandeliers, a 3 manual, 13
rank Wurlitzer theater pipe organ, and a glorious, giant central
dome, with tri-color cove lighting, hidden by an ornate rim of
cabochon-faced crests, to top it all off. The Grand Drapery
used around the theater stage's proscenium arch had "20 swags of
teal velour with its galloons in ochre, and tassels in henna red,
laid upon a lambrequin of Austrian folds, with highlights in beige
and fringed in henna. The beige teaser curtain hung in swags and
jabots while the tormentors were in beige, framed in teal
galloons." ( Cinema Treasures.org )
When Warner took over the theater, it's
entertainment venue turned completely to film to pay the
bills. United Artists Company was the next occupant of
the theater, who did the same.
In the following years The Riverside
Theater dodged two near fatal bullets.
In 1966, The Riverside Theater suffered a
fire which destroyed the fancy draperies, swag and elaborate
decor around the stage, but the theater was saved by automatic
sprinklers, which retarded the fire until help could come. As the
price tag to replace the original materials would be $590,000, a
simple panel of dark red duvetyn with "30% fullness" was
substituted for the destroyed swag and draperies.
United Artists were the next tenants, who,
it is reported, "ran the theater into the ground." However it was
the owners of this building, Towne Realty, who committed the sin of
not wanting to work on building upkeep, letting this old dame sink
into a run-down condition. Uh Oh! This isn't good. In 1982, United
Artists didn't renew their lease, and the owner, Towne Realty
had plans to tear the entire Empire Office building down, and build
a shopping mall or a large parking structure. The Riverside
was to suffer the fate of the other 6 Milwaukee theaters; a date
with the wrecking ball. Horrified enthusiasts of building
preservation quickly banded together to try to "Save The
After hearing the pleas of preservationists
to save The Riverside Theater, on a local radio station, the owner
of Towne Realty, millionaire Joseph Zilber had a change of heart,
regained his senses and threw the new construction plans into the
trash can. Mr. Zilber contributed 1 and 1/2 million dollars to
restore Milwaukee's old dame, The Riverside Theater.
The Riverside reopened with much
celebration in 1984, as a full-fledged, theatrical stage theater,
becoming a hot spot for touring Broadway shows and other touring
groups, like Riverdance, and many well-known singers and musicians.
While it wasn't quite as fancy and elaborate as the original
theater decorum, it still was a beautiful theater with its newly
lighted, gilded and re-draped auditorium, done in golds, and reds,
offering a glorious slash of color and sparkle.
As of 2008, The Riverside Theater mainly
offers musical groups, and comedians, with an occasional touring
play or musical, but still is going strong as an entertainment
HISTORY OF MANIFESTATIONS:
Like many old theaters, The Riverside
Theater has its own spectral musical and dramatic arts fans who
reside in the theater building, letting staff know that they are
there, when the theater is empty of audiences. There are a variety
of reasons why entities haunt theaters. Some of those reasons
are listed below.
Performers or wanna-be performers
in the arts who yearn for the stage:
Theatre * Rialto
Theatre * The
Washington Opera House * Woodstock
Opera House * Fitzgerald
Conscientious Employees or
( Pantages Theatre * Harvard
Egyptian Theatre * The
KiMo Theater * Tampa
At least one known male and one female
entity make The Riverside Theater their home.
A strong scent of floral perfume and the
unmistakable aroma of cigar smoke have been noticed by staff,
performers and patrons alike.
When the theatre is quiet and empty, these
entities have made themselves plainly known in front of the
The solid form of a male entity has been
seen lying on the auditorium chairs, and standing in/walking down
The feeling of being watched is strong at times.
The custodial staff which cleans the theatre during the wee hours
of the morning have told the entities that they have work to do,
and don't even react to paper mysteriously floating down from the
ceiling, or turning their back on their cleaning supplies, and
finding them moved from where they were last left.
These theater enthusiasts continue to
appear, tease and watch the living.
Interview with Eye witnesses *
Cinema Treasures.org * Cinema Treasures.org
Spend a Haunted Night!