Ada Meade Theatre

The Ada Meade Theatre opened in 1907 under the name The Hippodrome, at 325 West Main Street. The Hippodrome (commonly known as The Hipp) was owned by local businessman Louis H. Ramsey, president of the Lexington Amusement Company as well as the owner of L. H. Ramsey and Company, a commercial printing and billboard business. The Hippodrome was designed as a vaudeville theater, a competitor to the Lexington Opera House. Motion pictures were only a small part of the business done by the 450-seat theater at first, but they made up more of the schedule as their popularity grew.

The Lexington Amusement Company was so successful at the Hippodrome, it eventually branched out to own or operate theaters in Virginia, West Virginia, Tennessee, and Ohio. Ramsey’s sons operated theaters in Frankfort, Kentucky. In 1910, Ramsey financially backed his son-in-law, Stanley Platt, in his purchase of the Majestic Theatre (108 North Upper Street), which he renamed Star Theatre. (The Star Theatre was soon sold to John Elliott’s newly formed Colonial Amusement Company and operated along with the Colonial Theatre (224 West Main Street).)

In August of 1911, Ramsey renovated an adjacent building into a 260-seat theater and sheet music store, dubbing it the Hipp Annex. In 1912, with revenues failing in the face of competition with both the Colonial and the Orpheum, Ramsey formed a new corporation, the Lexington Theatres Company. Ramsey closed the Hipp Annex, and expanded the original Hippodrome Theatre to 934 seats. The space was re-named the Ada Meade Theatre, after Ada Meade Saffarans, a Lexington-born actress, who was successful in touring musical comedies. The major addition to the theater was accomplished by the construction of a second balcony for the segregation of African-American patrons, and which had its own access directly to the street at 319 1/2 West Main Street. The Ada Meade opened October 20, 1913, with an expanded program of motion pictures, but still featuring vaudeville and musical acts.

In January of 1914, Ramsey was forced out of the Lexington Theatres Company, and building was subsequently leased to the Gurnee Amusement Company from Louisville. In 1918, the Ada Meade was old by Lexington Theatres Company to William James, a theater operator from Columbus, Ohio. In late 1921, the Lafayette Amusement Company purchased the Ada Meade, and began operating it while it constructed the Kentucky Theatre. Throughout the 1920s, the Ada Meade Theatre was run as a third-run movie house, with a mix of adventure and western serials and extremely cheap seats; it suffered in comparison to the Strand, Ben Ali, and Kentucky in terms of prestige. The Ada Meade was converted to sound in 1929, last among the Lexington movie theaters. During the 1930-32 period when Lafayette Amusement Company leased out the Kentucky and State to the Publix Theatre Corporation, the Ada Meade was not part of the deal and it was booked from Louisville by the Switow family.

In 1932, the Ada Meade’s operational lease was sold to the Phoenix Amusement Company. In 1936, Phoenix Amusement Company sold its properties and operational leases to the Schine Theatre Company. The Ada Meade Theatre was closed in 1954, and demolished to make a parking lot.