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The PRINCESS Theatre was built by Henry L. Rhulander in 1927 and was converted to sound films by 1931.
The Hi-Way Drive-In Theatre’s architect was Irving M. Karlin of Chicago, Illinois, who brought it in for a construction cost of $90,000. The capacity was listed as 628 cars. Opening day was July 1, 1950. By September, 1950, the admission price had been reduced to 55 cents.
(The Morning Call, December 14, 2003)
Historic Hellertown movie theater gets new owner at auction – CFO for prior owner vows not to tear down art deco-style building.
By Matt Assad Of The Morning Call
The Movies building in Hellertown sold for $117,000 at auction Saturday, but the sale didn’t move the Main Street landmark any closer to renovation.
Then again, it didn’t move it any closer to demolition either, because it was bought by Ramzi Haddad, the chief financial officer for the building’s owner, Abe Atiyeh.
Atiyeh, a Bethlehem developer and owner of several senior housing complexes, bought the 1940 theater last year for $160,000, and Haddad said he was simply protecting the investment.
“You can’t even buy a house for a $117,000.” Haddad said. “I have to think about what I want to do with it, but I know I’m not going to tear it down.”
That’s what Rosana Rao wanted to hear most. Rao is a Hellertown gallery owner who has been looking for civic-minded investors to revive the 500-seat, 8,000-square-foot theater.
“Well, at least this gives us more time to put together a group that can save it,” said Rao, who has organized a group to try to save it. “This is better than letting it fall into the hands of someone who wants to tear it down.”
People from around the region once flocked to what was then known as the Sauconia after it was built by John Kofler in 1940. The art deco-style theater remained open until Kofler’s daughter, Elle, died early last year.
But in recent years the theater, which seats almost 600, had trouble drawing crowds, with its leaky roof staining the ceiling and walls, and its inefficient heating system keeping the place at a temperature more suitable for hanging meat.
Atiyeh bought it last December, with plans to turn it into a community center where bingo and school plays could be held. He replaced the roof and made a few repairs, but he abandoned the planned renovation and decided to sell it at auction.
The noon auction drew more than 50 people, but only a few serious bidders.
Auctioneer Joe Setton starting the bids at $300,000, but it was clear the dilapidated building wouldn’t fetch that when the first bid didn’t come until Setton dropped the number to $50,000. For five minutes, Angel Bas of Hellertown and Ed Hill, a Hellertown paving and excavating company owner, outbid each other, driving the price up to $110,000.
That’s when Haddad jumped in with rapid-fire bids, each time upping Hill’s price, and sending a clear message that Hill was not getting the building unless he went much higher.
Hill wouldn’t do that.
He said if his bid had won, he would have explored all options, including demolition.
Bas said he planned to turn it into an upscale restaurant and dinner theater that could have opened as quickly as 30 days after closing the sale. Bas said he hopes in the coming months to find other partners and approach Atiyeh and Haddad with a new plan to buy it from them.
“I know we can save it,” Bas said. “We just need a chance.”
TIME Magazine reported that Dale Theater owners Rubenstein & Kaplan tried a hardline action against TV and rowdy teenagers by barring adolescents, except those accompanied by adults, from their Dale Theater and claimed success in bringing adults back to the movies. They then reopened the long-closed Arion Theater with the same policy.
In the early 1960s a television documentary (which may have been “Hollywood and the Stars”) had a clip of the closed La Brea Theatre to illustrate the onslaught of television.
The Aldridge Theatre was slightly west of where the Haywood Building (Deep Deuce Grill) is today. Owned by Zelia Breaux and F.E. Withrow, the Aldridge opened in 1919. Big bands, vaudeville acts and movies were featured regularly. Music legends such as Cab Calloway, Billie Holiday, Count Basie and Duke Ellington appeared at the Aldridge.
The architect was Marks & Cooke of Towson, Maryland. Combined seating was listed at 1,000.
(From another forum:)
The original stage and fly areas along with a small orchestra pit are generally intact. The original balcony in the 1928 building was split off from the main floor in 1985. With the current seats, and balcony reopened, the original theater could seat a little over 500. There was also an addition built in 1975 on the north side of the theater that was split into two theaters in 1985, each seating 150 to 200.
Fund-raising is still ongoing, and the Friends of The Geneva Theater organization is currently working with the city to see if they would commit TIF Funds towards the purchase of the building. The plan is to restore the building for reuse as a Community Arts Center with a combination of a performing arts venue in the original 1928 portion, and multi-use visual and cultural arts space in the north portion of the building. Further information may be found at http://www.friendsofgenevatheater.org.
George Howard had two Bijou theaters, the first on the west side of the 200 block on South Main St. which was earlier a roller skating rink, and there were theater owners before and after Mr. Howard had it.
He was born in Florence, Kansas on, Jun 28, 1890, and later lived in Little York, but died on Jan. 28, 1973 at San Rafael, Calif., where he’d gone after the death of his second wife on Dec. 24, 1972.
He’d worked as a cigar maker at Fairfield, Iowa in 1910, and it seems that he had the winning ticket on the lottery which won him about $1,200. With that, he came to Monmouth early in 1911, intending to buy the Lyric theater, then in the Quinby building, later the Elks building east of the Monmouth public square. That deal didn’t go through, and he bought the Bijou Theater, which prospered and so he erected a new building with the theater within.
(Daily Republican-Register, Mount Carmel, Illinois, March 17, 1977)
Bomb in porno house investigated
FOX LAKE, IL. (UIM) – The bomb that destroyed the Towne
Theater, which showed pornographic films, might have been planted by the mob to extract a “tax” from the owners, according to a federal official. Peter Vaira, head of the U.S Justice Department’s Chicago Strike Force against Organized Crime, said Wednesday it was possible the bombing was carried out by mob forces.
“There has been a move in the mob to shake down some
bookstores – to exert a street tax,” he said. Syndicate figures are “in general, trying to collect a street tax from any kind of pornographic outfit,‘
The blast knocked down three brick walls of the theatre at 11:59 p.m. Tuesday and triggered a fire 90 minutes after patrons left the movie house, authorities said.
No injuries were reported but damages were estimated at
$175,000 to $200,000.
Fox Lake Police Chief Hay Walk said a "high explosive’
was placed near the rear exit doors. Although police found no physical evidence of a bomb, Walk said nothing else could have caused such severe damage.
(Daily Herald, April 13, 2007)
• (Then-) Current Mayor Cindy Irwin was questioned in the Towne Theater bombing that took place on March 16, 1977. The movie theater, owned by then former mayor Joe Armondo and famous for showing X-rated movies, was using nonunion projectionists to show movies.
Irwin was later absolved of the crime, believed to be done by the disgruntled projectionist union.
Baehr Theaters Co. came from Bemidji and erected the theatre block.
SUPREME COURT OF MINNESOTA
December 6, 1968
RICHARD RAYMOND AND OTHERSv.E. J. BAEHR AND OTHERS
Arising out of a fire and explosion in a building owned by defendants E. J. Baehr and M. S. Baehr and leased to defendant Bonita Amusement Company, Inc. One action was for personal injuries sustained by Richard Raymond, an employee of one of the tenants of the building; the other action was for personal property damage sustained by William Peabody and other tenants. The cases were tried together before John T. Galarneault, Judge, and a jury, which returned verdicts for plaintiffs against defendant Bonita Amusement Company only. Said company appealed from the judgment entered in each case upon the basis of stipulated damages.
On December 28, 1964, a fire occurred in the Baehr Building constructed and owned by defendants E. J. Baehr and M. S. Baehr. Bonita Amusement Company, Inc. was the prime lessee of the Baehr Building and was responsible for the repair and maintenance of the building. Actions were brought by the sublessees who sustained property damage and the employee of the lessee who suffered personal injuries from the fire and explosion. The issue was whether the fire was due to the negligence of defendants.
The jury returned verdicts against Bonita and Bonita appealed. The plaintiffs asserted that the fire originated in the negligently maintained incinerator system of the building, either from fire escaping from its defective burning chamber and igniting combustible material on the floors directly above it or from intense heat in its deteriorated flue igniting a wood meter cabinet adjacent to it on the second floor, and that regardless of such origin the fire’s damaging spread was due to three other negligent acts or conditions for which Bonita was responsible: A recurring prevalence of smoke from the defective incinerator system lulled the plaintiffs into complacency concerning the hazard of an existing fire; Bonita’s caretaker, in opening the door to the meter cabinet, then engulfed in flames, permitted the fire to burst out into general conflagration; and Bonita had its own responsibility for permitting the existence of a wood-framed ventilation duct, negligently constructed by defendants Baehr, along which the fire traveled across the building to the point where the building exploded.
The Baehr Building was a three-story structure which, with the exception of exterior walls and masonry floors and firewalls on the first floor, was constructed primarily of wood. It was equipped with an inside incinerator system, located toward the west end of the building. The burning chamber of the incinerator was in the basement and its flue rose vertically through the building to the roof. On each of the three floors there was a small door to the incinerator flue, into which tenants dropped combustible trash to the burning chamber below. Adjacent to the flue, on the second floor, was a meter cabinet made of wood. At the top of the flue was a wire screen to trap materials rising from the burning chamber.
The incinerator system had not been adequately maintained. Brick had fallen from the upper part of the burning chamber, creating an 8-by-10-inch opening at the upper rear wall of the chamber, and some of the brick inside the chamber was cracked. The interior of the burning chamber and flue had never been inspected, and no repair work had been performed upon the system in 11 years. Its flue was deteriorated as far as an observer could see above the level of the basement ceiling; the brick lining of the flue, which was not constructed of firebrick, was about 2 inches less thick than the 12-inch thickness indicated in the original blueprints. The wire screen atop the flue may have been clogged, for, although it was necessary for the caretaker to clean the flue out about once a month to avoid backup of smoke into the building, it had not been cleaned in 2 months and a smoky condition had existed in the building for some hours prior to the fire. The fire’s origin was somewhere in the immediate area of the incinerator system below the third floor of the building.
Fire had existed in the incinerator on the day of the fire. Due to the Christmas weekend there was an unusual amount of trash for incineration, and it was burned by Bonita’s caretaker from about 9 o'clock until about 10 o'clock in the morning. There was evidence, including charred wires above the burning chamber, from which a jury could find that intense heat or flame escaped through the hole in the burning chamber. The ultimate inference, the difficult one in this case, would be that this heat or fire was transmitted to the second floor to the meter cabinet where the fire was discovered in full flame at 2 o'clock in the afternoon, a little more than 4 hours after the morning’s trash burning.
The jury had before it a multiplicity of theories as to the origin of the fire and theories as to the spread of the fire, and was unable to ascertain upon what basis the jury found that defendant Bonita was negligent.
Demolition could start this week on the former CenterPoint MarketPlace property, and that means time is running out on a renovation of the
The city’s Community Development Authority on Monday hired Chicago-based Meridian Industrial Service Corp. to demolish the downtown mall for $278,000, $72,000 less than the lowest estimate, which was between $350,000 to $500,000 to tear down the middle of the empty building. The demolition will leave an empty space, which could allow the back of the Fox Theater to be restored. The back was removed from the theater to make space for the mall when it was built in the 1980s.
But Mayor Andrew Halverson said there is other interest in that soon-to-be-empty space. “(The owners of the theater are) going to have to move quick for us to reserve any space. We cannot just wait and not do anything because there’s potential they might do something.”
The possibility of restoring the over-century-old Fox Theater on Main Street had been used by the city and the Sanders family, who owns the building, as one of the selling points for borrowing $5.9 million to redevelop the mall area.
The Sanders family was working with a committee to restore the theater, but has yet to announce definite plans for the building. Committee spokesman Gerry McKenna said talks had come to a standstill and that the committee was waiting to hear from the Sanders family on what they wanted to do with the theater.
(Racine Journal Times, Thursday, December 13, 1945)
MILWAUKEE – Alexander H. Bauer, Milwaukee architect, died in a Milwaukee hospital Wednesday from a cerebral hemorrhage suffered while attending a business meeting here. Bauer, a past president of the Wisconsin Institute of Architects and a 32nd degree Mason, is survived by his wife, Etta.
Friends of the Fishers Island Theater held a fundraising event at the Pequot on Thursday, July 12th, 2012. There was a DJ, great raffle prizes and golf-outing live auction good for the Calusa Pines golf club in Naples, Florida. There will be a $20 cover charge at the door.
Jamie Doucette reported that 2012 marks the 80th anniversary for the theater and “We are raising money for the theater which desperately needs painting, many building improvements and a new digital projector system. The film projector is very outdated and they are going to stop circulating movies on film in the near future. Digital will also allow us to get newer movies. The theater has already been cleaned numerous times by our committee and a professional cleaning company, the entry-way painted and the windows replaced.”
The Friends of The Fishers Island Theatre is conducing a survey: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/CFW6RP6
This is the original Rhode Opera House, which was demolished to provide a footprint for the new 1927 Saxe Bros. GATEWAY Theatre.
(Mount Carmel Daily Republican Register, October 19, 2007)
A ‘Royal’ Rebirthby Kristen Tribe
Laughter ripples through the crowd at the Royal Theater in Archer City, Texas (pop. 1,848), as singer Rodney Hayden tells a witty tale. But as he begins strumming his guitar, the laughter subsides, Hayden begins to sing and the audience absorbs every note.
“Singer-songwriters love nothing more than you listening to what they have to say,” says Tesha Thomas, producer of the Lite Week Lazy Boy Supper Club at the Royal, a recurring showcase for performers to sing their songs and tell their stories.
The Royal Theater has a long tradition of inspiring storytelling, first as a movie house, then as the basis of a famous novel and film, now as host to the supper club, theatrical productions and the Texasville Opry, which presents six performances each year.
Pulitzer Prize-winning author Larry McMurtry, 71, grew up in Archer City and well remembers going to the Royal as a child. “Most of the movies I saw were at the
Royal,” he recalls. “We had to drive in from the ranch. It was the only culture there was, so to speak.”
In 1965, the town’s shred of culture was lost when
the theater burned; although a cause was never determined, locals always believed it was because someone was smoking in the balcony. Despite its
destruction, the Royal became a risen “star” when McMurtry spotlighted it in his novel “The Last Picture Show” the following year. It was memorialized again in the award-winning 1971 movie based on McMurtry’s book and filmed partially on location in Archer City.
In 1986, McMurtry opened Booked Up in Archer City, a bookstore comprising four buildings and hundreds of
thousands of books. The store proved to be a haven for
book dealers, readers, movie buffs and autograph seekers in search of the author. But despite the literary and cinematic attention brought to the town, the Royal continued to lay in ruins until a local theatrical group, the Picture Show Players, decided to rebuild it as a multiuse performing arts center.
“A group of people wanted to perform and wanted to
see it rebuilt and have an economic impact,” says Archer County Judge Gary Beesinger, 54, producer of the Texasville Opry and himself a member of Picture Show Players.
“It was an ‘If we build it, they will come’ mentality.”
On August 24th, 2000, the 35th anniversary of the day
it burned, the Royal Theater reopened. Since its rebirth, the Royal has regularly hosted a variety of theatrical and musical productions and various other events.
Another Archer City native, actress Angela Kinsey,
who plays Angela Martin on NBC’s hit series The Office,
held her rehearsal dinner and wedding reception at the
Royal in 2001. Although the dinner was planned for the
theater, the reception was to be outdoors until a violent storm necessitated an emergency move inside.
“The winds picked up and everything went nutty,” says Kinsey, who lives in Los Angeles but regularly
visits family in Archer City. “People were running for
cover and salad was flying through the air.”
Despite the storm, her wedding is just one of many
fond memories Kinsey has of Archer City. She and a friend often did their high school homework at Booked Up, and she remembers always being curious about the ruins of the Royal Theater and excited to hear about its restoration. “It’s important for every community to have a creative outlet,” Kinsey says.
Today, the Royal Theater’s bright blue ticket booth serves as a beacon to storytellers of all sorts, and to those who want to hear their tales.
McMurtty, who splits his time between homes in Archer City and Tucson, Ariz., says the Royal is once again a place of cultural significance in an area where ranching and oil comprise much of the economic base.
“It’s always good,” he says, “to have a little something to bring the stimulation of art into a small town.”
(Kokomo Tribune, August 18, 2000)
Theater made famous in The Last Picture Show' to reopen
ARCHER CITY, TEXAS (AP) — In this one-stoplight town immortalized in a 1971 Academy Award-winning film, a national icon is returning to the limelight thirty-five years after the Royal Theater burned down, the front of the stone building – complete with a blue and white marquee, orange awnings and illuminated “Royal” sign – has been rebuilt to appear as it did in “The Last Picture Show,” based on a novel by Archer City native Larry McMurtry.
The site of the original 100-seat theater won’t show movies but will be an open-air amphitheater with a larger room next door for bands, plays, dinner theater and art classes.
“This,” said project coordinator Abby Abernathy, “would have been simple to rebuild as a movie theater, but for what? To get 100 people in here?”
The renovated theater will be unveiled Thursday night, the 35th anniversary of the fire.
A fifth-generation resident, Abernathy, 38, bought the property in 1986. When his idea for a restaurant failed to get support, he convinced community leaders
to restore the theater as a tourist attraction.
The city was beginning to dry up, and we had to re-engineer,“ he said. "Tourism is what we had to offer, because the pilgrimage to the theater was everlasting.
People kept coming here for that.”
Filmed in black-and-white and hailed as a masterpiece, “The Last Picture Show” portrayed the
breakdown of an unhappy fictional one-horse Texas town in the 1950s.
Abernathy initially received little support from locals, many of whom objected to the R-rated movie’s sexual material and felt it denigrated their town.
But after working on the restoration for several years,
Abernathy has apparently convinced many that their link to the past is key to the town’s future. “Now, even the biggest skeptics think it’s a good idea,” Abernathy said.
The theater actually burned before the movie was made. Still, hundreds of people each year have made the trek to find the Royal and snap pictures of the rubble.
McMurtry, who won a Pulitzer Prize for “Lonesome Dove,” and others in town are not surprised by lingering interest in the landmark thanks to the film, which was nominated for eight Oscars.
“The Last Picture Show” had a lasting impression because it’s representative of small-town America,“ he said. "People with small-town backgrounds can relate to it.”
The Archer City of today is much like it was portrayed in the film, which was directed by Peter Bogdanovich and starred Cybill Shepherd, Jeff Bridges and Timothy
Bottoms. Ben Johnson and Cloris Leachman both won supporting actor Oscars.
Nearly 1,800 people live in this oil and ranching town in northcentral Texas, about 25 miles south of Wichita Falls. The only traffic signal is a flashing light.
The town has a few stores, banks, gas stations and one fast-food chain restaurant, Dairy Queen.
“I guess you could say not much has changed here since the 1950s,” said Mazie Berend, who owns The General Store in the downtown square. Berend remembers going to
the theater as a child in the 1950s, when a movie cost 20 cents and popcorn cost a dime. She and her friends watched John Wayne and Elvis Presley films, often turning around to see who was necking in the balcony.
“Everybody went to the Royal because that’s all there was to do,” Berend said. But that stopped when theater caught fire one night in August 1965. What was left was a charred facade and pile of stones and rubble.
“People were upset because it was their childhood memories going up in smoke,” Berend said.
The owners could not afford to rebuild, so the structure remained in ruins for decades.
Abernathy decided to donate the theater to the nonprofit Archer City Community Foundation, so grant money could be obtained. The foundation then bought the space next door to expand the theater.
For the past four years Abernathy has done most of the physical rebuilding himself. The final cost will be about $400,000 and profits from the renovated theater
will go back into operating it. “It’s just a dream come true for this town,” said Karla Powell, who owns a jewelry store and floral shop downtown. “Small towns, if they don’t have something to bring people in, then we’re all over.”
(BOXOFFICE, December 6, 1947)
Small-Town Theatre Designed for Public Serviceby Hanns R. Teichert
There are many small towns now supporting an old grownup-with-the-town theatre that are wide open for a second new and up-to-date house. But Walworth, Wis. is not one of them. Venerable as the town is, its inhabitants and those of the surrounding countryside are the proud patrons of one of the most modern and delightfully functional theatres in their part of the country. This property, owned by the Harvard Theatre Corporation, composed of John Papas, C. J. Papas and S. J. Papas, seats seven hundred people. And the first illustration will show how smart the house is from the initial visual impression.
A Refreshment Bar
It will be noticed at once that the building incorporates a refreshment bar. And inasmuch as this issue is stressing that feature of service, we cannot think of a better example of smart handling in this department. For this little bar is unique in many respects. In the first place, there is a service counter running across the middle of the shop so that it is divided into two separate sales areas; that toward the front door, and that toward the side rear door. From the front are served the people who come in from the street and who are not just then patronizing the theatre. And from the rear door are served those who come in from the theatre. Thus there is no confusion of unticketed small patrons getting among those who have already paid their entrances.
The other side of the door to the theatre lobby can be seen in the second illustration, where it will be noticed how smoothly it is incorporated into the features of the lobby wall. But first, a glance through the large plate glass window between the Showette and the outer lobby arrests the patron as he comes in and by the time he reaches the door in the inner lobby he has likely made up his mind to step in for popcorn, candy or something at the fountain. At least, that was what the Showette started serving when they first opened; but the demand has been so great that now hot and cold sandwiches have been added and small lunches. They are also making their own ice cream, and all this is served both day and night. This provides a great service to the children who throng in from the grammar and high school next door. To say that the Showette is popular is a vast understatement.
For those who do not want to go into the Showette when it is apt to be crowded with youngsters just before and after features, there is a bar at the head of the lobby where quick refreshments such as candy, gum and popcorn can be picked up in passing. Older people seem to find this a convenience. It will be noticed that both of these areas are incorporated into the architecture of the interior, and that they are neat, sanitary and a visual asset to the theatre instead of the messy and in-the-way afterthoughts that they sometimes are.
But enough for the handling of refreshments in this smart theatre and on to some of the other features it offers its patrons. On the opposite side of the lobby from the Showette are recesses leading to a modem ladies' powder room, the men’s smoking room, and a tiled inset containing the drinking fountain. Thus the necessary facilities for the service of patrons are distributed on both sides of the incoming and outgoing traffic areas so that a smooth flow is assured at all times. But it is the decoration of the Walworth Theatre that also keys it to what is best in its field. Foremost is the fact that everything has been so simply handled that it will date less quickly than most other houses: still, when the time comes for a general up-dating, the whole atmosphere of the house can be changed simply through an alteration of decorative treatment. Another color scheme, now motifs in the decorative panels, a few different accents here and there and presto! … a new interior!
The Color Scheme
At present, the color scheme in the lobby consists of coral red, warm off-white and gold, with carpeting that tones in well and is the same throughout the house. Plain surfaces on the side walls act as a foil to the rich squares of custom-made marble textured paper applied where the walls break toward the auditorium. Between these two marbleized areas is the centered candy bar backed with a decorative panel in an abstract floral pattern, well illuminated from the trough above. In fact, the illumination throughout the theatre is one of its most distinctive points. It was all especially designed and custom-made, much of it in pierced brass of classically fine design that will go with any subsequent redecorations. Another distinctive feature of the Walworth Theatre is its woodwork, which is finished in a natural light tone throughout to emphasize its good graining. This, too, is a permanent asset of the interior and requires no great working over in case of later changes.
The auditorium does not show the mistake made by so many of the smaller houses in going fussy or cute because of its size. The Walworth auditorium is executed with a dignity and simplicity that increases its size rather than diminishes it. The coral seating gives life to the area while the walls of deep turquoise are inset with sand-toned panels displaying free rhythmic leaf forms in a modern sketchy style. These are illuminated by curved light troughs that are a part of the panel ornamentation, and further lighting is taken care of free recessed overhead squares. It all sounds simple indeed, but the richness of these colorings and the feeling of tasteful restraint in the handling give a dynamic effect that is worth any amount of overdressing.
For All the People
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about this house is the whole effect it has of being residential rather than commercial. This is a well-calculated result, built up of many details, and planned that way because of the patronage it serves. The latter is composed of townspeople, farmers from the surrounding rural area, resort people during the summer from the nearby lakes, and an unusual percentage of youngsters not only from the aforementioned sources but from a large military academy nearby.
It was desired that this theatre provide an intimate and homelike atmosphere further to bind all these elements of people together, rather than a coldly commercial interior, however impressive. And in this the Walworth is an acknowledged success. People of all the groups mentioned above do express themselves as feeling at home there. The Showette acts as their kitchen where they can pick up a bite when they are hungry. The powder and smoking rooms are sanitary and attractive, they meet their friends in the lobby, and they relax together in the auditorium as comfortably as in their own living rooms. The Walworth Theatre is the community’s mutual home for entertainment, and there is no need or room in the town for another.
(Kenosha News article on the GATEWAY Theatre [July 16, 2012] by Diane Giles)
People stood in line on Dec. 29, 1927 at the Gateway Theater box office to pay 30 cents for tickets to see live entertainment in addition to the silent film comedy adventure “She’s a Sheik,” staring Bebe Daniels.
The Gateway is now Rhode Center for the Arts, 514 56th St. The Gateway was the third building to stand on the site. The original Rhode Opera House, built in 1891 was destroyed in 1896 fire and rebuilt the same year.
The second building was razed by Milwaukee entertainment giants the Saxe Brothers in 1926 to make way for the “modern” building costing a half million dollars. That’s more than $6.5 million in today’s money.
The theater was designed by George Leslie Rapp of Chicago. George and his brother Cornelius W. Rapp, who died a year before the Gateway opened, designed some of the finest movie palaces in the country.
“We found the blueprints at the Chicago Historical Society and were able to purchase a copy,” said Judy Rossow, manager of Pollard Gallery and former board member of Rhode Center for the Arts.
The Rapp firm’s three greatest achievements, according to “Motion Picture News” of Dec. 25, 1926, were the Paramount Theater in New York, the Oriental in Chicago and Shea’s Buffalo Theater in Buffalo, N.Y. The Rapps also designed the grand Chicago Theater in the heart of Chicago.
Seating 1,260, the Gateway Theater boasted a $60,000 organ offering wide instrumentation and sound effects.
But the real magnificence of the theater wasn’t in the auditorium. It was in the lobby, and much of it still is visible today.
“It’s different but basically the underlying is the same,” Rossow said.
Victor S. Pearlman and Co. of Chicago created the four crystal chandeliers that hang from the ceiling. The brown tiles on the floor that continue up the walls are original, made in Milwaukee at Continental Faience and Tile Co.
Perhaps the most intriguing are the decorative tiles made in Seville, Spain, at the Manuel Ramos Rejano factory.
Some frame panels stretching up two stories. Then there are the six ceramic benches that tell the story of Cervantes’ “Don Quixote.” Each has a different scene, but all of them are signed by the artist.
Rossow says the benches once had wrought iron arms and backs, but those amenities were removed. The railings on the balcony and stairway, ribbed glass on the front doors and the mirrored walls in the outer ladies lounge also date back to 1927.
But there have been changes. Missing are the draperies and mural panels that once graced the lobby walls. A fountain that once stood in the lobby was removed in the 1970s.
The four large sconces in the lobby once hung in the auditorium, but they were moved. Others installed in the 1960s makeover into the Lake Theater have disappeared over the years.
“The sconces that were in the lobby in pre-1970 are no longer around,” Rossow explained. “I know of only one in the vicinity. The rest belong to collectors.”
In THE SPRINGFIELD PAPER on February 21, 2012, Offie Wortham wrote:
“In 1961 I was a physics student at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio, and also the head of the Antioch Civil Rights Organization. With over 700 of the 1,100 students as paid members of the NAACP College Chapter, we were the largest organized civil rights organization on any campus in the country during the 60’s.
The owner of the Liberty Theater in Springfield had publicly vowed that Negroes would never be allowed in his theater. At that time African Americans also were not admitted into any of the bowling allies, roller skating rinks, and several restaurants in Springfield.
After hitch-hiking from Yellow Springs to Springfield I went to the box office to buy a ticket. I was told it was a “membership only” theater and I would not be admitted. I am Black. I walked around the corner to the police station and told them that we were going to have a demonstration at the theater after an attempt to have Blacks admitted. I got their assistance to park a busload of police around the corner while undercover police watched from the sidelines.
Because there were only 8 Black students at Antioch I had to go to Central State and Wilberforce to encourage a busload of Black students to come to be a part of the demonstration.
Well over 100 students came to take part in the operation. The owner was interviewed before the event and said again that Blacks would not be admitted unless they were members. White racist organizations nationwide, including the Klan and the Nazi party, promised to be there to support the owner to keep out Blacks.
Coverage of the event was on nationwide television, and the streets were lined with local citizens to see the showdown between the radical students and the racist theater owner and his supporters.
Black and White students approached the box office in a single file that went around the block. All students were neatly dressed and some were even forced to wear shoes. At the head of the line was David Crippens, a Black student from Antioch who had drawn the longest straw from among those put in by over 20 Black students from the three colleges.
I stood across the street with the reporters with two press releases. One that congratulated the owner for changing his policy, the other announcing the beginning of a daily picket of the theater.
When David got to the box office the streets went completely silent. After a moment he turned and raised his ticket, and a cheer broke out in the streets and from the students in line, as they all purchased their tickets and entered the theater.
In the following days we had to attend the Black churches and convince them they could now attend the theater. Just a visit and discussion at the other segregated places in Springfield was all that was required to have them decide to admit African Americans."