Built in 1909, The Liberty Theatre was one of five theaters envisioned and constructed by Henry Levy in Cincinnati, Ohio. Levy built The Liberty as a vaudeville stage and silent movie house. The silent pictures originally featured a live piano accompaniment by William H. Schmitt and the vaudeville shows ran on Friday nights. The original theater closed in 1929, but continued on as a film house with regular burlesque performances. Folklore has it that the theater was also a relief from the rigors of prohibition. Levy died September 25, 1938 while on vacation with his family in Washington, D.C.
The Liberty Theatre building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.
The 1937 Flood, a major disaster in Cincinnati History, was responsible for considerable damage to the building including the front facade, the original staircases, velvet raked seating, and floors. The flood-line reached the interior top of the stage, and the wings of the eagles on the exterior of the building. The building was altered and recovered in 1939 to the current floor-plan and state it is in today.
The facade of the building retains its original triangular pediment and decorative trim, and is a pastiche of Colonial Revival styles with a few bits of Art Nouveau added for good measure. The overall effect, like that of many early movie theaters, is suggestive of an attraction along an early twentieth century amusement park midway. The front was originally studded with electric lights in red, white, and blue, adding to the carnival effect.
The Liberty became a community gathering space and the home of many professional organizations and social groups including The Steel Worker’s Union; The Daughter’s of America; early Cincinnati city planners; and the Baseball Commission.
In the 1940’s part of the building was converted into the Liberty Chili Parlour and in 1943 The Greater Cincinnati Deaf Club bought the building. The Club maintained the restaurant tenants, while the Club’s headquarters occupied the upper and lower theater space, and offered the deaf community a meeting and event space. In their 73 year history, Club membership grew to over 900.
In 1954, Liberty Chili Parlour became Kay’s Restaurant and remained so until it closed in 2008.
In 2017, Clifton Players acquired the building and renamed it The Liberty Exhibition Hall, and re-introduced it to the public for private events and artistic performances of all genres.
The Clifton Players is the non-profit governing body for The Liberty Exhibition Hall, and its sister location The Clifton Performance Theatre (CPT). The Clifton Players is an artist driven non-profit organization, enriching individuals, neighborhoods in urban Cincinnati, and the wider community by providing positive artistic experiences in historic buildings perviously not for public use. CPT’s core focus is affordable, educational opportunities for children ages 3-17. Recognizing the majority of students will further their social intelligence and life skills for adult hood, both imperative to the future of a healthy culture, we guide each individual student to develop their voice and place in the Arts.
At both locations we offer youth camps, workshops and classes for all ages, as well as thought-provoking plays designed to engage, inspire, entertain and challenge audiences.
Clifton Performance Theatre, LLC. was founded in 2009 by Carol Brammer, Tatiana Cameron and Matthew Cameron. CPT will always be grateful for the early efforts of the Camerons in the creation of this wonderful black box theater.
Clifton Players is the non-profit organization originally founded in 2012 by Carol Brammer, and is the governing body of The Liberty Exhibition Hall and the Clifton Performance Theatre.