The historic Palace Theatre, built in 1919, was a New Jersey entertainment landmark for over 50 years. Originally a silent movie and vaudeville house, it later featured talking movies, local high school plays and graduations, minstrel shows and other live entertainment.
In 1934, the Palace was leased by a prominent operator of theatres in Newark and the Oranges, and a period of major renovation began. The interior was stylishly redecorated in 1934, employing fabric wall covering and ceiling draperies. A marquee was added at the entrance, and the Colonial Revival façade was covered by an Art Deco-style front in 1938.
The Hopatcong Broadway Players, a summer troupe of nationally known actors, directors and writers who vacationed at Lake Hopatcong, were a featured attraction in the mid-1930s. Bert Lytell, Celeste Holm and Gale Sondergaard were among the actors who appeared on the Palace stage as the troupe tried out theatrical productions before taking them onto Broadway.
During the mid-1940s, the commercial storefronts in the Palace’s facade were removed, and the theatre served as a popular movie house until the 1960s. It then fell on hard times as competition from television and multiplex theatres led to a decline in attendance. In 1981, the venerable theatre was converted into a warehouse for a moving company, a purpose it served until 1994.
In May 1995, The Growing Stage purchased the Palace Theatre and began the process of restoring it to a regional center for the performing arts. Since then, we have raised and re-invested $2 million, and in September 2012, we celebrated the completion of our final major capital project, the restoration of the Palace’s front façade.
The Growing Stage is the only theatre-for-young-audiences company in the state of New Jersey that owns its own facility. The fully-restored Palace features a 240-seat theatre and balcony/art gallery graced with hand-painted murals by company artist-in-residence Perry Arthur Kroeger, a modern concession area, rehearsal space, classrooms and administrative offices. The theatre is listed on the Morris County, State of New Jersey and National Registers of Historic Places.