Chateau Theatre in Rochester, MN
The theater originally opened as a vaudeville house with a medieval village-themed interior. With the advent of motion pictures, it was converted to a movie house that also hosted plays, concerts and operas. To keep attendees comfortable, the theater was later fitted with an air conditioning system, making it one of the first buildings in Rochester to do so. Headliners over the years included such stars as Ethel Barrymore, Tallulah Bankhead and Tom Mix.
The Chateau was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980, which allowed it to escape demolition when the theater closed in 1983 with a final showing of It Happened One Night.
After 11 years and $4 million in renovations, Barnes & Noble reopened the theater in July, 1994 as a special bookstore with a distinctive castle-like appearance. The store’s front sign looks like a traditional theater marquee featuring the Chateau name at the top and the Barnes & Noble name as a movie title. Inside, the theater’s original dark blue ceiling remains in mint condition with constellation designs intact. The original pipe organ is on display near the children’s section, and the former grand stage rests beneath the proscenium arch.