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Gallery Exhibit

Historic Lounges

Now through September 24

Best Buy Foundation Gallery

A 1956 photo of downtown Minneapolis on Hennepin Ave.

Visitors to The Hennepin, an arts and cultural event center, can look forward to experiencing exhibits that share the history of the Hennepin Theatre District. The exhibits will explore how the historic buildings are centered at the heart of the avenue, from characters that have come through them, to social movements, to the acts and artists who graced the stage, to the businesses and community that have changed around and with them.

Our first Heart of Hennepin exhibit, Historic Lounges, is currently on display in the Best Buy Foundation Gallery at The Hennepin event center.

About the exhibit

From the turn of the 20th century through the 1960s the Minneapolis theater district was commonly referred to as “The Loop”. Electric streetcars were a major source of transportation into and out of the district. Streetcars circled through dropping off and picking up passengers to this busy city center for shopping and entertainment of all kinds including retail stores, billiards halls, dancing schools and theaters. The golden age of theater lounges thrived during this time as well and were destinations unto themselves.

The theater lounges were a place to meet and have a cocktail, light dinner and some entertainment before attending a show at one of the many theatres that lined Hennepin Avenue and the nearby side streets. Many locations changed name and ownership several times over the decades.  While Vic’s, Saddle Bar, Cascade 9 and Dome Theater Lounge are long gone, remarkably some remain to this day, such as the Gay 90s, Happy Hour Lounge and the Brass Rail. Some lounges had full dinners while others offered lighter fare and most included a piano bar or three-piece combo, floor show or similar entertainment. By the mid 1950s when the streetcars ceased so did the theater lounges begin their decline.

Since the 1990s the tremendous efforts provided by Hennepin Theatre Trust and the City of Minneapolis in bringing the district back to life has also reimagined contemporary nightlife with the many restaurants, clubs and cocktail bars we all enjoy today. We hope you enjoy this exhibit that takes you back to the historic theater lounges of The Loop.