The Morris Performing Arts Center first opened in 1922 as the Palace Theater. It was designed by Chicago architect J. S. Aroner and initially hosted vaudeville shows and later, serial photo shows (1920s soap operas) and other silent movies. It escaped demolition in 1959 thanks to the generosity of philanthropist Ella Morris and was renamed the Morris Civic Auditorium. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1985 and still brings top-notch live entertainment to South Bend. Tours of the center are available by appointment Tuesday through Friday from 10:00-3:00 for a small fee.
seat Palace Theater was designed to be just that, “a little palace” by its designer J. S.
Aroner and defied architectural style as it incorporated numerous European
influences. During its early decades it
welcomed Broadway troupes traveling between New York City and Chicago as well
as the Ziegfeld Follies. Performers such
as George Burns, Gracie Allen, Bette Davis, Amos and Andy, Harry Houdini, Bing
Crosby, Elvis, and Frank Sinatra have graced its stage.
In 1959, the
Palace was scheduled for demolition due to declining attendance. However, Ella Morris purchased the theater
and re-sold it to the city for $1. The
new Morris Civic Auditorium then continued to host world class entertainers
such as Louis Armstrong, Hank Williams, and Stevie Wonder. However, the theater continued to suffer from
then underwent a $16.5 million renovation from 1998-2000, during which time the
theater was restored to its 1920s grandeur and re-named, yet again, to the Morris
Performing Arts Center. A new marquee
was added in 2005 and the Morris continues to host live entertainment from
musical groups, to stand-up comedians to Broadway shows.