State Theater: past and present
By Norma J. Leighty Baird
THE STATE THEATER originally began as the Aladdin Theater. This theater was built in 1924 for approximately $80,000 by W. H. Bower Construction Company, a qualified company with 20 years experience in building quality homes and office buildings. The Aladdin Theater of Cocoa was a modern building in a progressive town on the central east coast of Florida, a town that was becoming well-known as a tourist area.
A dream of Fred Bryan and Herbert M. Cogswell was to have a more stable and pretentious facility for the type of entertainment they felt the town of Cocoa should have. From all accounts, many of the citizens of Cocoa were not in agreement with these two gentlemen. Apparently this did not deter them as they decided to look on this project as a “dream come true rather than an investment.”
As in a lot of cases, the dream became a reality. Cocoa and its citizens were proud of this building and Bryan and Cogswell for their tenacity. The Aladdin Theater was one of the finest theaters in the state and Cocoa was probably the only town of its size in the whole country to process “such a magnificent structure for entertainment.”
Cocoa was served faithfully by the Victor Theater until about a month before the Aladdin was completed. The Cocoa Tribune bought the Victor Theater building from A. Lemmert, owner and manager, and moved in shortly thereafter.
An editorial in the Cocoa Tribune dated Aug. 14, 1924, sums it up quite nicely: “… it is really a theater for the Cocoa of the future, the city that we can only faintly visualize. It is really the first building in Cocoa which reaches so far into the future of our city, but with its coming comes the promise of other fine structures which are to house various enterprises and which are to do their part in forming the Cocoa of the future. As the beginning of this city of our dreams, the Aladdin will always hold a unique place in our history. The Aladdin is also somewhat unique in being erected for theater purposes alone. It was not built to house various businesses and with the theater idea as a secondary consideration, but in spite of its great size, it is exclusively a place of amusement. It is a theater of which all may be proud.”
Maybe the “Cocoa of the future” did not materialize in growth as other towns in the state turned into cities and metropolises, but the theater remains, mostly unchanged in appearance, inside and out.
We are grateful for those who saw the potential of this handsome, well-built structure in the downtown area of Cocoa, now known as Cocoa Village. We are grateful to those who felt the need to bring the cultural arts back and, through their tireless efforts, began the restoration of this building.
This building has seen its share of changes over the years. The Sparks Theater chain bought the building in 1939, and it became the State Theater. This is the name most of the Mosquito Beaters remember from the 30s, 40s and 50s. Following its being the State Theater, the Kent theaters bought the building in 1960 and named it the Fine Arts Theater. The building was idle for a while, then sold again in 1985 and underwent four years of renovations. Now the building, owned by Brevard Community College, is known as the Cocoa Village Playhouse.