Unique Theater in risk of collapse

posted by Anthony L. Vazquez-Hernandez on February 14, 2007 at 10:00 pm

SALIDA, CO — Here is an article about the Unique Theater which is now in immediate danger of collapse:

Under the threat of “imminent danger” that Unique Theater may collapse, Salida Fire Chief Don Taylor Thursday recommended a number of F Street and First Street businesses not allow people inside until it can be stabilized.

The 118-year-old building at 129 W. First St. has been under scrutiny by Salida officials since August when a routine fire inspection and subsequent building inspection exposed problems with structural integrity of the building.

For the full piece, go to the Mountain Mail.

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Comments (5)

EarleK
EarleK on March 5, 2007 at 3:08 am

Work to stabilize/partially demolish the Unique could begin as soon as tomorrow, Mon. March 4. My concern, and that of others here in Salida, is that we are about to lose part of our heritage and should do everything we can to document the history of that once grand building. We have an architectural survey done in 2001-02 on the basis of which the theater was designated a local landmark, but I would love to see pictures of the inside and urge people to share them with us. I have found, in our local library archives, four photos taken inside around 1900 when the floor was still flat and the balcony extended down the sides to rather ornate box seats on either side of the stage. These I assume were taken when it was the Salida Opera House. After conversion to movies it was known as the Empress, Osnos, Salida Theater and finally, the Unique. The original flat floor was covered with a raked floor and permanent seats installed sometime before 1960 when the exterior front facade was stuccoed. Ironically the stucco job won a city beautification award when it was new, so I am told. Tastes change and now, of course, we wish it had never happened. The stucco also covers a series of tall arched windows that would look magnificent, if revealed. The boarded-over windows appear to be in good shape from my view inside just a few weeks ago.

As a preservation advocate, I hope there is interest in helping us document this once prestigious downtown landmark and that the new owner will respect its importance to the City of Salida.

Anthony L. Vazquez-Hernandez
Anthony L. Vazquez-Hernandez on March 5, 2007 at 3:29 am

Hello,

I took around 2 rolls of film I took of the interior of The Unique in April ‘06. Included are the auditorium, lobby, concession stand, projection booth, back stage and balcony. Email me at if I can provide copies of any of these for you. Thank you so much for your efforts to preserve this wonderful theater!

Tony “Pearl” Hernandez

Anthony L. Vazquez-Hernandez
Anthony L. Vazquez-Hernandez on March 5, 2007 at 3:29 am

Hello,

I took around 2 rolls of film I took of the interior of The Unique in April ‘06. Included are the auditorium, lobby, concession stand, projection booth, back stage and balcony. Email me at if I can provide copies of any of these for you. Thank you so much for your efforts to preserve this wonderful theater!

Tony “Pearl” Hernandez

EarleK
EarleK on March 6, 2007 at 12:13 am

TonyH—
Thanks for your interest in the Unique. I just sent you an email about your offer to share your pictures taken inside.

Today starts the stabilizing activities. The City planner just told me they need to relocate electrical service first and then prepare the site to install girders to prop up the walls from the outside. That work is supposed to be finised March 16. Then the roof can be taken off, which should be finished by March 23. In the meantime, community efforts are underway to raise money perhaps to save the theater.

Please share your expertise. Thanks.

EarleK
EarleK on March 7, 2007 at 5:55 am

UPDATE: Unique Theater (1888 Salida Opera House) Salida, Colorado

The City of Salida, Colorado will loan as much as $125,000 for two years to the new owner of the Unique Theater to stabilize the walls of the historic landmark by March 16 and remove the damaged roof by March 23, according to an agreement ratified last night (Mar 6) by city council.

The back portion of the building, which contains the 650-seat theater, was condemned Feb. 8 when City officials and a structural engineer inspected and reported it was in “imminent danger of collapse.” Adjacent property owners and businesses were warned and several have closed until the threat is lifted.

Meanwhile citizens interested in saving the historic building have called a second meeting for 7 p.m. tonight (Mar 6) at Victoria Tavern, another 19th Century building within the City’s downtown national historic district. If the community will help raise money, the new owner said he would wait until August 15 to exercise his option to demolish.

The City’s Historic Preservation Commission gave permission for partial demolition of the affected building following a well-attended public hearing Feb. 22.

The front portion of the building appears structurally sound with potential for adaptive reuse. It includes the lobby flanked by storefronts and a large second floor meeting room that has been sealed off and unused for perhaps 50 years. A coat of stucco applied sometime during the 1960s conceals all the original brick on the front façade and the tall, arched windows in the second floor. Ironically, the stucco job that was meant to beautify the structure now prevents the building from contributing to the downtown historic district and from competing successfully for public funds for its rehabilitation.

The building opened in 1889 as the Salida Opera House with the upstairs meeting hall used by the local Masonic order. Built of brick, it replaced the wood opera house consumed by fire the year before. Local preservationists hope to find photographs of the front façade. Only one historic illustration of the front is known to exist at the Denver Public Library. It shows a wide-arched entrance flanked with storefronts and the tall second floor windows. The original cornice and pediment at the roofline are the only remaining visual elements of the original theater on the exterior.

Unfortunately, decades of deferred maintenance have rendered the interior of the theater unlovely, and now, unsafe. Most original detail has been lost because it was modernized several times as a movie theater under the name Empress, Osnos, Salida Theater and finally, the Unique. Triangular steel brackets were installed sometime in 1980s to buttress the roof and ceiling where it meets the walls.

Let us know if you can help.

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