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History Museum / Fox Theater
155-157 Park Central Square, Springfield, MO
The Springfield History Museum opened its doors in 1976 on the 3rd floor
of the old Springfield City Hall. In 2008 they started what turned out
to be a successful effort to acquire three adjacent buildings on Park
Central Square. Those were the Nathan Clothing Company as well as the
Sherwood building and the Fox Theatre buildings. After they acquired the
properties the museum changed its name to The History Museum on the Square
which opened its first exhibit in 2013.
The ornate neon History Museum sign frame has been in the same location
since it first adorned the 1914 Nathan Clothing Company building. Of
course the lettering within the frame has changed over the years, going
from "Nathan's Clothing" (1914) to "Barth's" (1935)
to "History Museum". But the frame itself with its torches
on the top corners has been there for over 100 years.
On the northwest corner of the Nathan's Clothing building is a marker
that commemorates the Butterfield Overland Stage. The Springfield station
was at this location at General Smith's Tavern which burned in 1913.
The Electric Theatre opened in 1916 with 1,800 seats and became the
Paramount theater in 1930. Fox Theaters bought the property in 1934
and went back to using the Electric Theater name. A 1942 fire severely
damage the theater and it did not reopen until 1949, at which time it
became the Fox Theater again. After the renovation the seat count went
down to about 1,550. After a couple of other ownership changes it closed
in 1982 and then became home to a church before being purchased by the
Like a lot of theaters in downtown areas the front takes up very little
valuable real estate on the main street with the bulk of the building
tucked away behind other store fronts. It was built by M.E. Gillioz,
who also built the Gillioz
Theatre. A replica of the Fox Theater neon sign was relit in 2014.