Built in the early 1920s during a span of 19 months, Playhouse Square is the Cleveland Theater District in Downtown Cleveland, and the largest performing arts center outside of New York. The district was developed by Joseph Laronge who envisioned a row of theaters on Euclid Avenue between East 14th and East 17th streets.
The first theaters to be built were the Ohio and State Theatres. Soon after, additional theaters were built and the area surrounding became known unofficially as “Playhouse Square.” The theaters successfully showed a variety of serious theater, vaudeville shows, and movies for more than forty years. However, during the years following WWII, suburbanization and the rise of television led to the decline of theaters. Affected by a fire that broke out in Ohio in 1964, most of the theaters in Playhouse Square closed by 1969.
Plans to reopen and restore the area began almost immediately. In 1970, through various public-private partnerships, the City of Cleveland began restoring theaters in Playhouse Square. Through a grassroots effort, the renovation and reopening of theaters helped usher in a new era of downtown revitalization in Cleveland, and was called “one of the top ten successes in Cleveland history.”
The revitalization led to additional developments such as the Renaissance Office Building and Wyndham Hotel, and have drawn new theatre companies into the area including the the Cleveland Play House and Cleveland State University’s Department of Theatre and Dance. Playhouse Square currently welcomes more than one million guests to over 1,000 performances and events each year. Its Broadway Series season ticket holder base is one of the largest in the country, making Cleveland one of fewer than 10 markets that can support a two-week run of a touring Broadway show.