Theatre in Early 20th Century Toledo

Alfred A. Hahn: 1602 Sylvania Avenue, Toledo, Ohio

**Note: this section contains mature content**

The Westwood Theatre, designed by Alfred A. Hahn, was built in 1928 on 1602 Sylvania Ave. The timing of the theatre’s construction is worth noting, given the 80% unemployment rate in Toledo following the advent of the great depression in 1929. With the loss of jobs came a feeling of insecurity and uncertainty, and the Westwood Theatre--an early adult theatre--was a palliative for those facing the unfortunate results of the depression. This time period had also been dubbed as the Golden Age due to the advancements in cinema made in Hollywood. The draw of motion pictures, first silent films with live musical accompaniment, and later the first "talkies," would have been an escapist fantasy for those who could afford it. 

People today may find it hard to imagine what adult theatre would have been like in the early 20th century, when film itself was a new medium. And while we can't know for sure which films played at the Westwood in those early days, some popular films with more explicit sex scenes and mature themes that were playing in 1928, the year the Westwood opened, are listed below:

  • The Mysterious Lady starred Greta Garbo as a Russian spy who seduced men to steal confidential information
  • Our Dancing Daughters, a three part series with Joan Crawford featured a series of romantic melodramas with Jazz Age flappers (often consdered "loose" women) as the main characters.
  • The Wedding March, a film set in pre-WWI Vienna (during the famously decadent Weimar Republic era), included an orgy scene amidst its story of a doomed romance between a musician's daughter and a debauched aristocrat.

For more information, see the references at the end of this article.

Thal and Jokel: 426 Saint Clair Street, Toledo, Ohio

The Palace Theatre was designed by the Thal and Jokel architectural firm and built in the 1920s, however it was demolished in 1969. This theatre was originally used as a vaudeville theatre, making it a place for an endless variety of live entertainment. It was transitioned into a movie theatre after alterations were made to the building. This building presumably reached a large audience with its many forms of entertainment, allowing Toledoans to forget about the current matters of the world. 

Stephen M. Jokel: Bancroft Street and Heyman Street

Architectural drawing for the Orchard Theatre

During the same time frame of the great depression, 1936, Stephen Jokel received a commission from an unknown source to create the Orchard Theater, an entertainment center to display musicals and other live performances. Not much is known about where or why the Orchard Theater was commissioned, but the project never came to fruition. It is possible that like the Willow Beach Amusement Park, this building was an attempt to capitalize on the entertainment market during the depression era.


Hay, Mark. “Porn from the 1920s Was More Wild and Hardcore Than You Could Imagine.” Vice, 5 Apr. 2018.,

“Sex in Cinema: 1927-1929 Greatest and Most Influential Erotic / Sexual Films and Scenes.” AMC Filmsite,