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History Museum / Fox Theater

155-157 Park Central Square, Springfield, MO

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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 History Museum.

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.

Photo(s): 2016



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