History of the Queen Theater

LIGHT UP THE QUEEN from Kathleen Kurle on Vimeo.

Key dates in the history of Market Street’s famed building.


The Indian Queen Hotel is built.

The Indian Queen

July 4, 1797:

A celebration of US freedom is held at a space in the hotel known as the Queen of Otaheite Tavern, named after the South Pacific island that had been visited by a Wilmington whaling vessel.


Martin Van Buren, seven years before he was elected President of the United States, visits the Queen.



Despite harsh economic conditions, hotel proprietor John Hall doubles the Queen’s capacity by making it three stories high.

March 25, 1871:

Artisans’ Bank and the First National Bank of Wilmington buy the Indian Queen as a combination headquarters,  but decide to upgrade it into a first-class hotel, the Clayton House, at a price tag of $200,000. An additional two stories were added, bringing the building’s total height to five stories.



The Clayton House gives way to a $250,000 movie theatre with enough seating in the auditorium and on the balcony for 2,000 people.


April 1959:

The movie theatre closes, showing House on Haunted Hill as its final film. The Queen remains dark for the next five decades.


October 2004:

Hal Real and his Real Entertainment Group open World Cafe Live in Philadelphia. Designed to host “good, live music for grown-ups,” it shares the same building as non-profit radio station WXPN, whose World Cafe program inspired the venue’s name.


Hal Real begins talks with Wilmington-based real estate developers the Buccini/Pollin Group and official from the City of Wilmington to discuss restoring the Queen into a fully operational performing-arts venue. A deal is met and fundraising efforts for the $25 million project get underway.

October 2009:

Construction begins on the 45,000-square-foot World Cafe Live at The Queen, with a spring 2011 opening date announced.



Benefit concerts held by Light Up The Queen Foundation feature Wilmington resident David Bromberg and New Orleans native Trombone Shorty, who performs on the roof of the nearby ShopRite.

November 2010:

Demolition reveals three 10’ x 18’ murals still in excellent condition. Representing beauty, painting and music, the murals were obstructed by soundproofing panels when The Queen was converted from a hotel into a theatre.

April 1, 2011:

World Cafe Live at The Queen opens its doors. The rest, as they say, is history.



Donor Wall

Thank you to our generous donors for helping us Light Up The Queen

Donor Wall and Leadership Gifts


City of Wilmington        Longwood Foundation        State of Delaware        Tatiana and Gerret Copeland        The Buccini / Pollin Group        The DuPont Company        Bank of America        Delmarva Power        JP Morgan Chase        The Pettinaro Family        AAA Mid Atlantic        Astra Zeneca        Barclays        Blue Cross Blue Shield of DE        Delmarva Broadcasting        ING Direct        Laffey-McHugh Foundation        Marmot Foundation        Welfare Foundation        Wells Fargo        Amtrak        Cephalon        Christiana Care        Consortium Investments, INC        Delaware Community Foundation        Homsey Architects, LLC        Mannington Mills        My Sherpa, LLC        PNC        Poores Propane        Standard Distributing        Wilmington Trust Company        WSFS        The Erskine Family        Mr. Michael Hare        The Hobbs Family        Ms. Jackie Ivy and Ms. Sally Spatafora        Mr. Rich Jones        The Koppes Family        Randy Kunkle        Ben & Betsy LeRoy        Frank Levy        The Martelli Family        Ms. Karen Poore and Dan Nestor        Hal Real and Anne Sheppard        Maureen and Michael Rhodes        H. Rodney and Lynn Sharp III        John and Carin Rollins        Bret Snyder and Anna Quisel        The Taylor Family        Mr & Mrs Clinton Walker        The Wellons Family        Toni & Stuart B. Young        The Zahralddin-Aravena Family