A "casino" in the 19th century was a clubhouse or building used for social meetings. Princeton's Casino was the Triangle Club's first theater — and arguably, the University's first "campus center," used for dances, tennis and bowling, as well theatrical productions.
Before the Casino was built, performances by the Princeton College Dramatic Association — Triangle's predecessor — were held in a dining hall. Booth Tarkington, Class of 1893, launched a $13,000 fundraising campaign "for construction of an adequate theatre for plays and concerts, with office space, dressing rooms and rehearsal halls."
The new building, designed by J. M. Huston, Class of 1892, was erected in 1895 on what was then the lower campus. According to the June 13, 1893, Daily Princetonian, it contained a main auditorium, two tennis courts, a dance floor and a stage "forty-five feet wide and thirty-two deep, flanked on either side by lockers, shower baths, dressing rooms, etc."
In 1900 the Casino was sold to Company "L" of the Princeton Militia of the New Jersey National Guard, which used it as a drill hall and armory. No longer a dedicated theater, the building's growing deficiencies as a performance venue became a leitmotif in reviews of Triangle Club shows. In 1922, the Militia sold the dilapidated Casino back to the Triangle Club for a nominal sum. The club secured a $10,000 insurance policy on the building, which was condemned by the Princeton Fire Department a year later.
On January 8, 1924, the Casino burned to the ground. Herb Sanford, Class of 1927, recalled that two pianos were saved and that he and Bill Green, Class of 1925, dressed in pajamas and raccoon coats, entertained spectators with "Keep the Home Fires Burning."