123 North Seminary Street
The theater business in the Shoals was dominated by Louis Rosenbaum, who came to the area in 1918 during the construction of the nitrate facilities and Wilson Dam. Rosenbaum opened the Princess Theater in 1919 and over the years expanded to nine theaters across the region. Rosenbaum and his son Stanley operated the theaters until the 1950’s when Louis retired and Stanley became an English professor at the University of North Alabama. The Rosenbaum family is also known for their house—the only house in the state of Alabama designed by renowned American architect Frank Lloyd Wright.
The Shoals Theater opened on October 21, 1948. The first film shown, at 1 pm was “That Lady in Ermine” starring Betty Gable and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. Several shops operated within the theater along Seminary Street, such as Stamps Florist and Crump Camera. The theater continued to operate in downtown Florence until 1980. The theater operates today as an event space, hosting concerts, plays, and performances throughout the year.
The theater was built during the era of segregated public spaces. The oral history belows addressses this segregation:
Shoals Theater was built in the Art Moderne style, and features the long horizontal lines, low profile, and curving forms that embodied this type of architecture. The streamlined look represented prosperity and the future in the consumer-centric culture of the 40’s, and 50’s. The streamlined look was applied to everything from household appliances, cars, buses, ships, and buildings.