The Sherman Theatre, located in the 4600 block of West Burleigh, was designed by noted architect Herbert W. Tullgren. He designed a large number of buildings in Milwaukee and other cities in southwestern Wisconsin, and many of these are now listed on the National Register of Historic Places for their architectural and historical significance.
Built in 1935, the Sherman Theatre is an excellent example of 1930s movie theatre construction. The building is of the “Art Moderne” style, a late version of Art Deco, which became the standard design style during the Great Depression. The Sherman is one of only a small handful of Milwaukee theaters from this time period that is still relatively intact.
The theater closed in 1977 after an arson fire damaged the curtain, screen, and several front row seats. Although initially scheduled to be closed only temporarily, the theater never reopened. The 1970s and 80s was a period of great economic and social change in Milwaukee, and the theater never showed another film. Instead, it was sold to Liberty Temple Church, which occupied the building for more than a decade.
In the mid-1980s, community leaders and area residents launched a promising campaign to revive the theater as either a movie house or performing arts venue. In 1989, Milwaukee Neighborhood Ventures, a neighborhood-based non profits entity, purchased the property and later invested more tan half a million dollars into fixing up the retail storefronts. Unfortunately, unfavorable economic conditions kept the theater portion of the building closed and untouched.
In 2001, the whole complex was sold to a third party, and the theater has remained empty.
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Learn more about each era of Sherman Theatre history: