Built in 1911 at the southwest corner of University Avenue and Dale Street, the Faust was the neighborhood theater for generations of Frogtown and Rondo residents. The once-beautiful building had ornate brick detail, as well as stucco and wood features that gave it an almost Tudor-style appearance.
The Faust hosted afternoon kiddie matinees as well as first-run movies. Many area residents remember having date nights there or going to enjoy movies with friends. But by the 1960s the Faust closed due to suburban theater competition. After being leased to a church for a time the Faust reopened in 1970 as one of St. Paul’s pornographic businesses. University and Dale, and Wabasha Street downtown were two of the worst areas. The Faust and its across-the-street neighbor, the Flick, were two of the X-rated theaters. The Faust also had peep shows and a dirty bookstore.
The theaters were Ground Zero in Frogtown’s long fight against the sex trade, street and storefront prostitution and related problems of drug dealing and other illegal activities. Then-Mayor George Latimer and Ward One Council member Bill Wilson were shocked by what went on there and crusaded for the businesses to close. Latimer called it a “supermarket of porn.” Neighborhood residents staged protests and picketed the theaters, saying they were a blight on the community. At one protest annoyed Faust employees dumped water out of an upstairs window and onto the protesters, damaging a $40,000 television camera. Some of the protests got physical.
The 20-year struggle to close the theaters ended in March 1985, after the owners took a $1.83 million buyout from the city and closed the business. The Flick owners had accepted a buyout offer two years earlier but the two theater closings were tied together.
The properties were turned over to the city. Various redevelopment ideas, including a new Penumbra Theater and a German restaurant, were floated before the Faust was torn down in the summer of 1995. The Rondo Community Outreach Library now stands on the site.