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Hennepin Theatre Trust launches Heart of Hennepin centennial exhibit series featuring the historic lounges of the Hennepin Theatre District

March 15, 2022

The first exhibit, Historic Lounges, opens on March 15 at The Hennepin

MINNEAPOLIS (March 15, 2022) — For the past 100 years, the Hennepin Theatre District has served as a backdrop of experiences in the heart of downtown as the stage for celebrating life and art with Broadway shows, musical acts and comedians, and restaurants, bars and clubs. To commemorate this, the Trust launched Heart of Hennepin, a yearlong campaign honoring the history of the District and looking ahead to the future. The first of four Centennial-focused exhibits debuts on Tuesday, March 15 in Jack Link’s Legend Lounge in The Hennepin (900 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis).

Discover the hidden gems and thrilling history downtown’s speakeasies and watering holes at Historic Lounges, a Heart of Hennepin Centennial exhibit. The display will explore the fascinating history of the Hennepin Theatre District, also known as “The Loop,” dating back to the turn of the 20th century through the 1960s when the golden age of theater lounges thrived and captivated audiences.

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 theaters 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.

Beginning in the 1990s, the Trust and the City of Minneapolis worked to bring the District’s vibrancy back to life by reimaging contemporary nightlife with the many restaurants, clubs and cocktail bars that are still enjoyed today.

Future Heart of Hennepin exhibits will explore how Hennepin Avenue has evolved and adapted over 100 years and will continue to adapt and change with the future. Historic buildings have long been at the center of Hennepin 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.

  • LGBTQ History on Hennepin, beginning June 1, 2022
  • The Lion King, beginning July 27, 2022
  • Vaudeville on Hennepin, beginning Nov. 18, 2022

For more information on upcoming centennial exhibits, visit HennepinTheatreTrust.org/centennial.

Hennepin Theatre Trust drives cultural and economic vitality in Minnesota through leadership of the dynamic Hennepin Theatre District in downtown Minneapolis and educational programming that reaches every area of the state. Its historic theatres — Orpheum, State and Pantages — and event center at 900 Hennepin Avenue light up Hennepin Avenue with top-tier entertainment, including the best of Broadway and a wide variety of arts programming. Hennepin Theatre Trust is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization. Learn more at HennepinTheatreTrust.org.

Heart of Hennepin – celebrating 100 years of the Hennepin Theatre District
To honor the centennial, Hennepin Theatre Trust is kicking off a yearlong celebration for the Orpheum, State and Pantages theatres, along with The Hennepin event center and 824 Hennepin, home to the Brave New Workshop comedy theatre. This year-long centennial celebration honors the history of the Hennepin Theatre District and looks ahead to what the future holds for the arts, the Trust and downtown neighbors. HennepinTheatreTrust.org/centennial.