The Terrace Legacy Project continues its journey of reliving the glory days of the Historic Terrace Theatre in Robbinsdale.
The historic theater provided entertainment to the citizens of Robbinsdale and beyond for nearly 50 years. When the doors opened on May 25, 1951, the theater flooded with people worldwide coming to see “Fathers Little Dividend” starring Elizabeth Taylor and Spencer Tracy. It was designed for movie house owners and advertised as “America’s finest theatre at your very door.”
“The lobby of the theater was intentionally designed to feel like a living room. They wanted you to feel comfortable and at ease,” said David Leonhardt, founder of America’s Classic Cinemas. “It was the best community building that Robbinsdale had.”
The opening night of the Terrace Legacy Project exhibit was Aug. 8 at Robbin Gallery, 4815 42nd Ave. N. The exhibit is open through Aug. 31. Gallery hours are 5:30-8:30 p.m. Thursdays and 1-5 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.
The exhibit showcases the complete history of the Terrace, from the early concepts and construction through its 48 years of service and ending with the fight for preservation and eventual demolition in 2016.
“We wanted to make sure we got as many pictures as possible and showcased all the many changes. Something that is represented of the way a person remembers it,” Leonhardt said.
Several key artifacts were removed from the theater before demolition, including two lobby chandeliers and the Terrace Tower letters. Officials from America’s Classic Cinemas and the Robbinsdale Historical Society have been working to restore the artifacts and collect others for the exhibit.
The key artifacts are in various degrees of restoration work. Two of the seven tower letters have been restored and are functioning. Leonhardt stated it has been about 20 years since the tower letters had been lit.
Leonhardt has a passion for preservation through photography. While classic theaters were being closed over the years, he noticed there weren’t many photographs of the Terrace. Leonhardt and his wife traveled across Minnesota photographing classic cinemas.
One of Leonhardt’s missions was to save the Terrace Theatre that he loved so dearly.
“The stories I have heard of these theaters, and the important roles that they play in their communities, inspired me to try to preserve the place that so many of us love so much,” Leonhardt said.
He worked at the Terrace for three years in the early to mid-’90s and met his wife at the time. The Robbinsdale community and attendees of the Terrace Theatre showed their support by sharing many memories, he noted.
One particular memory is from Pauline Ficker, who was 17 at the time she began working as a cashier at the Terrace. In 1955, Ficker had been looking for a job and stumbled on the theater as the last stop on her search.
“I was interviewed by Bill Ficker, the manager, and Sidney Volk the right-hand man. Bill was proud to be apart of the Terrace family and made sure it was magnificent for theatergoers,” said Ficker.
She was hired and married Bill six months later. “Just think if I hadn’t gotten out of the car,” said Ficker.
Donations to the Terrace Legacy Project will fund the continued restoration of the tower letters. For $10, individuals can sponsor one of the bulbs used to relight the Terrace Tower letters. The end goal is to have a public display in Robbinsdale.
For more information, visit terracelegacyproject.com.
Follow the Sun Post on Facebook at Facebook.com/MNsunPost.