16 March 2021

Fire at the Victory Theater

In 1908 Eveline Auerbach constructed a new hotel and theater at 44-52 E 300 South at a cost of $140K ($4M today).

The project was a mixed-use building with stores and hotel on the street front. The hotel rooms were on the top two floors of the building and the hotel office, stores, and the entrance to the theater on the lower level; the theater auditorium and balcony was a large building located behind the hotel.

The hotel started as the Regis Hotel and then changed to the St George Hotel in 1952. In 1956 the now defunct Yardstick fabric store moved into the hotel office space.

The Theater had several names: it started as the Colonial Theater, became the Pantages Theater in 1913, Loew’s State Theater in 1921, and finally the Victory Theater in 1924.

The first Talkie film presented in Utah was shown at the Victory Theater on May 26 1928 and was “The Jazz Singer” starring Al Jolson (in blackface!).

In 1943, one of the most devastating fires in SLC history destroyed the Victory Theater. Several people were injured and 3 firemen were killed. The fire was able to be contained to the theater building and none of the adjacent buildings, including the hotel, were burned.

After the fire only a brick shell surrounding rubble remained. The fire-ruined brick walls stood for several years; sometime after 1950 they were removed but the large concrete subterranean foundation remains.

The property remained with the Aurebach family until 1949 when Eveline’s children sold the majority ownership to a Los Angeles real estate mogul, E. Phillip Lyon. Ownership has transferred a few times since then and the current owners have owned the property for at least 20 years.

The original façade of the street front stores were covered in the 1960s and the stores closed in the 1980s/90s. The building has sat vacant for decades and recently has become known for its ever-changing street art.

Colonial Theatre 1909, From UDSH.

Victory Theater entrance 1924. From UDSH.

Victory Theater fire 1943. From UDSH.

Victory Theater fire 1943. From UDSH.

Fire aftermath July 1943. From UDSH.

Modern façade, 1979. From site form, UDSH.

Sanborn Map 1911

Sanborn Map 1950

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