Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia

Burlesque

Trocadero Theater, 1917

a black and white photograph of the Trocadero Theater in 1917 draped in American Flags

The Trocadero Theater—“the Troc”—opened in 1870 as the Arch Street Opera House and featured traveling minstrel shows and musical comedies. By the mid-1890s, the theater hosted vaudeville and burlesque shows. (Library of Congress)

Library of Congress

The Trocadero Theater—or “the Troc,” as it is better known—opened in 1870 as the Arch Street Opera House. At that time, the theater featured traveling minstrel shows as well as musical comedies. The building, which was designed by Philadelphia architect Edwin Forrest Durang, had to be rebuilt in 1872 following a devastating fire. Just over a decade later, it was rebuilt again after yet another fire. By the turn of the century, the theater had been remodeled several times and operated under numerous names before settling on its current name in the mid 1890s. By that time, the theater hosted vaudeville and burlesque shows. As late as the 1950s, the Troc continued to operate as a burlesque house, featuring performances by prominent professional showgirls such as Mara Gaye. Nevertheless, over the next decade, the theater fell into serious disrepair.

In the late 1970s, the Troc was fully restored and added to the National Register of Historic Places. In the mid-1980s, the facility was remodeled once more for its modern use as a dance club and concert venue. In addition to live music and DJs, the Troc in 2016 was hosting comedy shows as well as a weekly movie night. According to the theater’s management, the Trocadero is the only Victorian-era theater still in use in the nation.

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