This building was recently rescued after alternating between serving as a warehouse and just standing vacant for almost thirty years. The building opened its doors in 1905 as the Baltzell Opera House.
At the time, downtown Hammond served as a summer getaway for wealthy New Orleanians who wanted to escape the summer humidity but still work Monday through Friday. Mothers and children would stay all summer in one of Hammond’s elite hotels while the father would work in the Crescent City Monday through Friday. He could take the train to Hammond on Friday evening and return Sunday night. People could walk to the Baltzell for a show after dinner with their children.
The Jazz Singer, the first full-length motion picture with sound, debuted to audiences in 1927. The Great Depression made vacations financially difficult, if not impossible. In 1945, the Baltzell Opera House closed its doors and re-opened later that year as the Ritz Theater. Locals paid less than a dollar to see love stories on Friday nights or westerns on Saturday afternoons.
Financial crisis struck again in the 1970s, and the theatre closed. The rise of multiplexes in the 1980s and 90s kept it from re-opening. The building stood mostly vacant, occasionally serving as a warehouse until being converted into townhouses in 2007.
Today, the relatively simple brick façade covers a unique downtown structure. Behind the sliding double doors is a parking garage. The remaining two stories are luxury residential spaces. The eye-catching marquis is not historic but was reconstructed from a pattern of the original.