Designed by prolific theater architect Frederick E. Beall, the Astor Theatre originally began in 1913 as the Astor Theater. The fast-growing around Poplar Grove Street evidently packed the 200-seat theater and, by December 1921, the owners decided to expand the building. After a major renovation converting the building to a Spanish design by architect J.F. Dusman, the theater reopened as the Astor Theater on November 14, 1927.
The movie house was equipped with a Kimball organ and, in 1929, the owners added Vitaphone & Movietone sound systems. Plans in 1930 to enlarge the theater to a grand 2,000 seats never moved forward. Unfortunately, the years after World War II proved difficult for many small Baltimore movie theaters. The Astor Theatre closed in the fall of 1953 just a few months after the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education sparked a rapid transition in the formerly segregated white neighborhoods surrounding the establishment. In April 1954, the theater reopened under new management seeking to cater to Black audiences but closed the next year.
The former theater was eventually converted to a market. Today, only a careful observer can still find clues showing the building's origins. On Poplar Grove Street, where the original theater entrance is bricked in, there is a small white stone where the word "Astor" is still engraved. On the back is a faded sign with an even older name—Poplar Theatre—reminding today's shoppers of the theater-goers from a century in the past.