Agora Theatre and Ballroom
|Former names||Metropolitan Theatre
New Hippodrome Theatre
|Address||5000 Euclid Avenue
Cleveland, Ohio 44103
|Owner||MidTown Cleveland Inc.|
|Opened||March 31, 1913|
|Renovated||October 3, 1986|
The Agora Theatre and Ballroom (commonly known as the Cleveland Agora, or simply, the Agora) is a music venue located in Cleveland, Ohio founded by Henry "Hank" LoConti Sr. The Agora name was previously used by two other Cleveland venues in succession, the latter of which was damaged by fire in 1984. The current Agora venue, known as such since 1986, first opened in 1913 as the Metropolitan Theatre.
History of the Agora
East 24th Street
In 1967, the Agora moved to a second building on East 24th Street near the campus of Cleveland State University. Once settled in their new location, the new Agora Ballroom, informally referred to as Agora Beta, played a role in giving exposure to many bands, both from the Cleveland area and abroad. Many artists such as Bruce Springsteen, U2, Lou Reed, Grand Funk Railroad, Duran Duran, ZZ Top, Glass Harp, the Raspberries, and hundreds of others achieved much exposure after playing the Agora. The Cleveland Agora was also the setting of the concert by Paul Simon's character in the opening minutes of the 1980 movie One-Trick Pony. The front facade of the Cleveland Agora was temporarily swapped for the one shown in the movie.
The popularity of the club led the Agora to expand during the 1970s, opening as many as thirteen clubs, in cities including Columbus, Ohio, Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, Tampa, Miami, Hartford, Akron, Toledo, New Haven, Painesville and Youngstown. However, the Cleveland location is the only one still in existence today.
In 1984, the Agora was damaged by a fire. Two years later, they reopened in a new location on Euclid Avenue, east of Downtown Cleveland. They have remained there since then, and today is still a popular concert club, with many national acts playing there when they stop in Cleveland.
History of 5000 Euclid Avenue
The building currently known as the Agora first opened on March 31, 1913 with an English performance of Aida as the Metropolitan Theatre. It was the brainchild of Max Faetkenheuer, an opera promoter and conductor who had also been involved in the construction of the monumental Hippodrome Theatre on Euclid Avenue five years earlier. The new opera house was well received and did well early on, but later struggled to stay profitable. Among various uses, the Metropolitan was home to a Cleveland's Yiddish theatre troupe in 1927. This brief episode in its history came to an end a few months later in 1928 after the troupe was involved in a bus accident on the way to a performance in Youngstown; the actors were too injured to perform and the venture went bankrupt. By 1932, the venue had turned into a vaudeville/burlesque house called "The Gayety," hosting "hoofers, comics and strippers." The Metropolitan returned to its original use for a short time during the mid-1940s staging comedic musicals, but by the end of the decade stage productions had ceased and the theatre became a full-time movie house. From 1951–78, the theater offices were home to radio stations WHK (1420 AM) and WMMS (100.7 FM); the theater itself was known as the WHK Auditorium. In 1968–69 the theater was known as the Cleveland Grande. In the early 1980s, it briefly re-opened as the New Hippodrome Theatre showing movies.
Following the fire which damaged the Agora Ballroom on East 24th Street, club owner Henry LoConti, Sr. decided to move to the 5000 Euclid Avenue location. Following extensive renovations, the new Agora Metropolitan Theater, the third Cleveland venue to bear the Agora name, opened in October 1986. The 24th St. Agora was the site of a live recording on the 1996 reissue of Patti Smith's Horses album. The present-day Agora has two rooms: a 500-person capacity, standing-room-only ballroom with adjoining bar, and an 1800 seat theater. It is available for rentals, and is still playing host to nationally touring acts. Plans are underway to reopen the Backstage Cafe. The Agora is the host of Cleveland based band Mushroomhead's annual Halloween show.
Henry LoConti Sr. died on July 8, 2014 at age 85.
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-  Archived January 19, 2012 at the Wayback Machine
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